Celebrating twenty-five years of making school lunch matter

School lunch specialist shares tips to cure school lunch box blues

TORONTO, Nov. 15, 2011 /CNW/ - Dairy Farmers of Canada is teaming up with school lunch specialist and Registered Dietitian Shannon Crocker to develop five original ideas for curing the lunch box blues. The new "Crocker's cures for lunchbox blues" are part of the year-long celebrations commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Elementary School Milk Program (ESMP).

More than 2,800 Ontario schools (70 per cent of all Ontario Elementary Schools) will be celebrating their participation in the ESMP as a way to encourage more students and more schools to enjoy the many benefits of the program.

As an expert who spends a lot of time in schools, Crocker sees first- hand the many benefits the ESMP provides to the overall nutrition of school-aged children.

"Students love the Elementary School Milk Program for the great tasting milk and fun rewards," says Crocker. "Parents feel good knowing their children are getting energy and 16 essential nutrients they need to stay healthy, alert and ready to learn every day."

When it comes to school lunch nutrition Crocker wears three expert hats: a mother of two school-aged children, an ESMP volunteer and a Registered Dietitian. This puts her in a unique position to see what is going on in school lunch rooms.

"Parents are getting tired of making the same packed lunch for their kids, only to see them bring home half-eaten sandwiches or an untouched container of veggies," says Crocker. "My practical suggestions blend the desire for parents to feed their children healthy foods with the need to make things tasty and fun for the kids."

Crocker's cures will give parents alternatives to the constant barrage of sugary, processed, over-packaged foods showing up on store shelves and in school lunchrooms across Canada. She's produced a more nutritious variation of foods she knows are kid favourites - things like dips, savoury snacks, lunchtime drinks, pre-made kits and chewy bars.

CROCKER'S CURES FOR LUNCHBOX BLUES (for a more complete description please visit www.MilkinSchool.ca.)

1. For kids who like store bought pre-made lunch kits…
A fun lunch kit that kids can assemble themselves on weeknights.
Crocker suggests reusable containers divided into sections. Think of simple finger foods for each section that kids can 'stuff it' or 'stack it' and then eat it.

2. For kids who like rice cereal and sugary granola bars…
A homemade, no bake recipe your kids can help you with on a weeknight.
Make a big batch using low sugar, low fat, whole grains as ingredients that are much less expensive and more nutritious than store-bought versions and cut into individually sized bars.  Wrap them and place them into a freezer bag and into the freezer. In the morning, one place into a reusable container and put it in their lunchbox.

3. For kids who have a lunchtime "drinking" problem…
A program that makes cold milk (white or chocolate) available to students at school every day.
Many schools in Ontario are part of the Elementary School Milk Program, a program that makes cold milk (white or chocolate) available to students. It's an easy way to ensure your kids are getting a healthy beverage delivered right to their school. Check it out at www.MilkinSchool.ca.

4. For kids who love to dip…
Bottom line - dipping is fun.  Kids of all ages (and parents) love to dip.
Dips add extra pizzazz to everything from a stick of celery to a whole-wheat cracker. Make your own 'dessert style' dip with plain Greek style yogurt, a bit of brown sugar and a splash of vanilla. Instead of brown sugar, you can drizzle in some maple syrup, honey or chocolate milk syrup. For dippers try grapes, berries, pineapple chunks, melon chunks or peeled mini/Clementine orange sections or cinnamon baked pita wedges (brush with a little butter, sprinkle with cinnamon, cut into triangles, bake till crispy).

5. For kids who like crunchy snacks…
Have them assemble their own crunchy medley.
Put an array of healthy ingredients out on the table on the weekend and have them assemble their own personalized medley. Store their creation in an airtight container and they can scoop some out into smaller containers for their lunch each day. Switch up the ingredients each week to keep it interesting.

ABOUT THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MILK PROGRAM
The Elementary School Milk Program partners schools with local dairies to offer students cold, nutritious and affordable milk at lunchtime every day. Since its inception, millions of children have benefited from this program with the help of thousands of volunteers and people in the dairy industry. Typically the milk is sold to the schools at prevailing market prices. Schools then determine a 'fundraising' profit, after which families receive a significant discount from what one would pay for a 250mL carton of milk at a restaurant or convenience store.

WHAT EXPERTS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE ESMP
"Educating students about how important it is to make healthy dietary choices works best when food is actually being served at school. The Elementary School Milk Program makes the healthy choice easy for students by consistently delivering messages about healthy nutrition at school," says Chris Markham, Executive Director and CEO of Ophea (formerly the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association). "It also helps students get the recommended 2-4 servings of milk and alternatives per day, gives parents a convenient way for their children to get daily servings of cold, nutritious milk and provides a safe and easy way for schools to fundraise."

SOURCE Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC)

For further information:

For more great ideas on school lunches, to interview Shannon Crocker or to learn more about the Elementary School Milk Program, please contact:

Josh Terry / Katy James
416-322-3030, extension 239 / 232
josht@trilliumpr.comkaty@trilliumpr.com

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Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC)

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