Schools and Whole Grains
"Feeding a child is a profound act. The foods we invite into our children's bodies determine how their organs will develop and function the rest of their lives."
Dr. Alan Greene
Kids' growing bodies especially need the benefits of healthy whole grains. The foods kids learn to eat at school will help them make healthier choices outside of the school building. The Whole Grains Council supports increased consumption of whole grains in schools worldwide, and provides resources and information to both schools and manufacturers to make this a reality.
One good place to start is with the section of this website called “Whole Grains 101” which defines whole grains, describes their health benefits, and gets you up to speed on whole grain vocabulary.
Once you’ve got the basics, we’re here to help you...
FIND GREAT WHOLE GRAIN RECIPES, SCALED FOR QUANTITY COOKING
We've put out two collections of foodservice recipes that may be of interest to schools.
Click here to download a PDF (1.3M PDF) of our 2012 collection, including more than 6 dozen recipes from schools, colleges and workplace cafeterias.
Click here to download a PDF (128K PDF) of our 2007 collection, including 22 foodservice recipes from some of our favorite foodservice providers and chefs.
Access handouts and educational materials
Cast your eyes to the menu at the left, and check out our PDFs of educational materials and our lesson plans, which could be just right for use in your school. We urge you to click the link above and see the whole list -- but here are just a few highlights.
Getting Enough Whole Grains (Eng + Sp) -- a great coloring page for lower elementary
Grain of the Month Graphics -- for ongoing nutrition education programs
Power of 3 whole grain lesson plans for upper elementary kids.
If you'd like to focus in on resources in Spanish, you can find them here.
The Whole Grains Council will also provide posters, buttons and stickers to schools at no charge (within reason!). Check out the options here.
FIND WHOLE GRAIN PRODUCTS AND INGREDIENTS
The last few years have seen an explosion of great whole grain products from bread and cereals to cookies, granola bars, crackers and so much more. If a product bears the Whole Grain Stamp, you will know that it offers at least (8g) of whole grain per serving.
Click here to see our database of Whole Grain Stamp products. Click on Foodservice if you'd like to zero in specifically on foods aimed at the foodservice market.
Links to important US government documents
Whether you're a school trying to bring more good whole grains to your kids, or a manufacturer trying to make the right whole grain products for schools, here's the information you need, to understand current and (likely) future federal requirements for whole grains in schools in the United States.
1) USDA's Whole Grain Resource (February 2014)
As of July 1, 2014, all grain foods served in schools are required to be "whole grain-rich" -- which roughly means that at least 50% of th grain in the product must be whole grain. This very useful and comprehensive document explains the requirements for whole grain-rich foods in school meals. It's THE go-to document for companies offering whole grain foods to schools. Click here to access this document on USDA's site.
Want to test your knowledge of the new requirements for whole grains in schools? Check out this USDA webinar (including quiz questions).
2) Smart Snacks in Schools (May 2014)
Also as of July 1, 2014, snacks served during school hours must be higher in healthy nutrients and lower in empty calories. You can read all the details on USDA's website here, and you can use USDA's Smart Snacks Product Calculator to verify if your products meet the Smart Snacks in Schools standards. The calculator has all of the program's standards built right in!
3) Clarification of Corn Masa as a Whole Grain
Traditional lime-water processing (nixtamalization) of corn for tortillas, tacos, tamales, etc. results in better bio-availability of many nutrients – but also may result in small amounts of bran loss. This October 2012 USDA FNS Memo SP02-2013 states that nixtamalized corn counts as “whole grain rich” as long as its nutrient profile is similar to whole grain corn.
4) USDA's Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs: Grains/Breads
The USDA has long offered a Food Buying Guide for each category of foods in Child Nutrition programs. The previous edition of the FBG for Grains is now outdated; when USDA does update the Grains Buying Guide, it should be posted here on their site. In the meantime, refer to the Whole Grain Resource in #1 above.
5) IOM Report: School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children (October 20, 2009)
Curious to see how USDA arrived at the new school lunch requirements for whole grains? You can purchase or read the full report online. There's a lot to it, but if you want to zero right in on the whole grains sections, we recommend you see:
Chapter 7, p. 122: chart showing recommended servings of food groups for menu planning
Chapter 7, p. 124: Box 7-1 explains the "criterion for Whole Grain-Rich foods"
Chapter 7, p. 125-126: further explains how IOM arrived at the criterion
Chapter 10, p. 199-200: details IOM's Recommendation #6 that FDA should require labeling whole grains with grams and that the requirements should get more stringent as kids get more used to whole grains.
6) The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC)
Schools can get a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Gold of Distinction award for making healthy changes in the foods they serve (including serving more whole grains) and the activities they promote. You can learn how this voluntary program works on the USDA website.