Area Schools to Nosh on Healthier Foods

TCAPS' Nutrition Standards Initiative is taking form and will likely impact the district by 2011.

Traverse City Area Public Schools superintendent Steve Cousins recently met with CFO Paul Soma, Director of Food Service Kristen Misiak and Board of Education President Marjorie Rich to discuss and plan for a Nutrition Standards Initiative. The comprehensive, district-wide initiative, which will affect everything from TCAPS' lunches to snack machine offerings, will be implemented in fall 2011 – though Misiak says the schools plan to start integrating small changes in food service and vending machine offerings in early 2011.

Credit the momentum to the federal child nutrition standards bill passed last month, says Misiak. "TCAPS wants to get on board with the initiative now. Last month I talked with Steve, and he wanted to rework the standards. The springboard was what President Obama is doing – setting standards in school districts."

The intent is to align TCAPS' food service and vending machine offerings with research related to the impact nutrition has on learning. "I think we'll see portion sizes reduced, and some things sold in vending machines will change," explains Misiak. Likely candidates? Pretzels, with low nutritional value and high sodium, and flavored water instead of soda. Rich adds: "We know the importance of nutrition and how people learn and function."

The nutrition committee consists of Misiak and Rich, plus the district-registered dietician; secondary and elementary staff; students; food service members; parents; and even community participants like The Cooks' House restaurant in Traverse City. The committee's goal: to write a set of standards to recommend to the board of education to adopt as policy by fall 2011. BN