The Bower Foundation announced today the funding of a new $900,000 grant in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Healthy Schools. The funds will be used to help schools provide healthier student meals, in accordance with the Mississippi Healthy Schools Act, by replacing deep fryers with new, high-tech Combination Oven-Steamers.
To date, 84 schools have been awarded combi-oven grants from The Bower Foundation, which provide healthier school meals to more than 65,000 Mississippi students each day. Today’s announcement will provide funding to an additional 50 schools within the state.
The Bower Foundation’s Nutrition Integrity Grants first began in 2006, when three Mississippi schools were granted funds to test implementation of the new steamer-ovens. A case study the following year showed a significant reduction in calories, calories from fat and saturated fat served to students, as well as an overwhelmingly positive response to new baked products by both students and staff. The project clearly demonstrated schools’ commitment to serving healthful, tasty meals that support academic success in the classroom.
“Healthy schools that support good nutrition and physical activity as a part of a total learning environment produce healthy students. Healthy students are more likely to be academically successful,” said Anne Travis, CEO of The Bower Foundation. “The foundation is pleased to partner with schools that are committed to improving health and educational outcomes in our state.”
Replacing school kitchen fryers with combi-ovens is one important strategy for improving the nutrition and health of the more than 375,000 Mississippi children who eat lunch at school each day. Mississippi schools serve nearly 31 million breakfasts and over 67 million lunches every year. State-of-the-art kitchen equipment can help ensure that school meals are appealing to children, and are prepared using the most healthful cooking techniques and food products available.
Serving baked foods – rather than fried foods – can make a substantial difference in the number of calories and fat children consume each day.
PRODUCT Total Calories Total Fat (grams) Saturated Fat (grams) French fries (fried) ½ cup serving 88 4.61 0.87 French fries (baked) ½ cup serving 73 (17% less than fried) 2.05 (55% less than fried) 0.57 (34% less than fried)
The relatively small differences per serving become substantial when you look at the total number of servings eaten at school. For example, one large Mississippi high school will serve about 2,000 servings of French fries per day. Switching from the current fried product to a newer baked product would lead to the following savings per day:
• 30,000 fewer fat calories served every day • Over 5,000 fewer grams of fat served every day • 600 fewer grams of saturated fat served every day Assuming 180 school days per year, the savings per year from just one item would be as follows (again, using French fries as an example): • Over 5.4 million fewer fat calories served in a school year • Over 900,000 fewer grams of fat served in a school year • Over 100,000 fewer grams of saturated fat served in a school year
“Schools are an ideal setting to provide children access to healthy foods, and to establish and reinforce healthy eating behaviors,” said Scott Clements, director of the Mississippi Office of Healthy Schools. “Well-balanced school food programs play an important role in providing children with the nourishment they need to be healthy, fit and ready to learn.”
Founded in 1996, The Bower Foundation is focused on the development of strategies to improve the health of Mississippians. As a funder of important projects and initiatives throughout the state, Bower has made the development of healthy lifestyles for Mississippi children a core priority.
The Mississippi Department of Education Office of Healthy Schools (OHS) offers a system of coordinated school health services to Mississippi’s 151 school districts, to assist them in developing organizations that make the connection between good student health and high academic achievement.