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Published: September 19th, 2019

How to Prepare for Farm to School Month

Can you believe September is almost over? That means next month, October, is Farm to School Month! This is an exciting time of year to ramp up your program’s nutrition promotion and education using locally sourced foods.

Are you unsure how to participate in Farm to School Month? Never fear! ADE is holding its annual Farm Fresh Challenge! The Farm Fresh Challenge is divided into three categories of activities for LEAs to compete and celebrate the season. ADE has released a Farm Fresh Challenge Toolkit to help you in all your activities.
Category 1: Taste Arizona
To participate in Taste Arizona, your LEA should source and serve local meal components. You can earn Copper Standard, Silver Standard, or Gold Standard in this category based on how many and what types of foods you source and serve.
Category 1: Taste Arizona Picture

Category 2: Teach Arizona
Teach Arizona is a way to give students hands on and interactive opportunities to learn about local foods. Examples of these educational activities include taste testing foods with students, garden activities like planting, harvesting, or cooking, farm tours, farmer visits, or nutrition and agricultural related lessons. Get creative and have fun! There are many fun ways you can Teach Arizona about local foods, nutrition, and agriculture! The Farm Fresh Challenge Toolkit lists several community partners who can support you with this category of the challenge.
Category 2: Teach Arizona Picture

Category 3: Connect Arizona
We can’t even pretend to hide how excited we are here at ADE about the Connect Arizona category, because this is an opportunity for us to see the work you are doing with students in schools! To participate in Connect Arizona, share at least one post about the Farm Fresh Challenge to social media and use the hashtags #FarmFreshAZ and #AZf2s or #farmtoschoolmonth. We truly can’t wait to see your photos! Be sure to check out the social media tips and sample posts in the Farm Fresh Challenge Toolkit. Category 3: Connect Arizona Picture

Participating in Farm to School month through the Farm Fresh Challenge not only helps educate students, but also builds excitement around your school nutrition programs. Top Performance Awards for the challenge will be presented at the School Food Programs Conference and Processing Expo on December 3rd in Mesa, AZ.
Performance Awards Picture

Published: Augusts 21, 2019

Back to School Training

Back to school season is an exciting time in school nutrition world. Fresh beginnings, new staff, updated menu items, oh my! We wanted to dedicate a post to highlight how a few districts rang in the new school year with back to school staff trainings.

  1. Alhambra Elementary School District
    Every year, Alhambra reviews bloodborne pathogens, civil rights, and McKinney Vento guidelines during their back to school training general session. This year, they stepped up their first aid game with a presentation on the Heimlich maneuver and basic wound care from Alhambra School Nurses. Alhambra also invited Rick Hall from Creighton School District to present on customer service skills.
    Other exciting elements of Alhambra’s training were a team building activity called “The Great Egg Drop” and holding breakout sessions. Breakout session topics included offer versus serve, weights versus measures, and culinary best practices for new menu items!
  2. Laveen Elementary School District The week before school starts, Laveen’s district office staff and cafeteria managers get together for “Manager Bootcamp,” a 1.5-day in-service training to share updates, review policies and procedures, summarize ANC presentations, and more.
    The Wednesday before school starts, the district held a welcome back event for all employees. During this event, staff learned about last years accomplishments and heard from a motivational speaker. Everyone ate together, and then all Child Nutrition staff attended a training to review staff updates, production records, offer versus serve, workplace safety, and customer service!
  3. Madison Elementary School District
    Madison Child Nutrition staff started the year by attending a district-wide training on student social and emotional well-being. They also enjoyed a guest speaker who trained on a variety of topics including customer service, leadership, and how to de-stress. Food service leadership encouraged staff to hold try-it days for children throughout the year. Finally, for a little fun, the entire department got to ride smoothie bikes. ADE School Nutrition Blog Banner

Did your district do something fun for back to school training? Share your story or photos by emailing [email protected]! Happy new school year!

Published: June 27, 2019

Spotlight on Summer Food Service

Summer is often thought of as a magical, free, and fun time for children. However, for the many children who rely on school meals for nourishment, summer can be a tough time. Thankfully, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) helps fills in the hunger gap for many children in Arizona! This month, we are highlighting some splendid work being done by schools across Arizona to ensure children receive the nutrition they need during summer!
J B Sutton Elementary School in Isaac Elementary District held a special event to increase participation and awareness of their SFSP on June 10th. The event highlighted local dairy products. A representative from Saddle Mountain Dairy, “Roxie the Cow,” and representatives from Shamrock Foods were present. Children in attendance were able to participate in taste tests and vote for milk varieties they liked best!

Gilbert Unified District held a Summer Kickoff event at Highland Junior High. GUSD was awarded a grant by the Dairy Council who helped make this kickoff event a reality. The Dairy Council was able to bring a retired Diamondbacks Player, Scott Hairston, to encourage children to participate in a “Kids Get Cookin-Cooking Activity for Kids,” in which children created their own yogurt parfaits. What a terrific way to encourage engagement and make summer meal service a fun place for all!

J O Combs Unified School District participated in their first Farm to Summer Week Challenge this year. The Assistant Superintendent, Mark Duplissis stopped by to help feed more than 200 children who were present to receive meals. Each day of the week captured a different Farm to Summer theme, but Monday focused on students building-their-own greenhouse station where kids could color a green house and plant some pinto beans (a basic germination experiment). The greenhouses will adorn the windows until the beans sprout. Monday’s event also provided egg-cycle (hard-boiled eggs with carrots or celery) taste tests with local Hickman Farm eggs.

We’d also like to recognize the following districts who participated in the Farm to Summer Week Challenge this year. Stay tuned to our social media platforms to see the winners announced in the following weeks!

  • Humboldt Unified District
  • Isaac Elementary District
  • Laveen Elementary District
  • Madison Elementary District
  • Murphy Elementary District
  • Litchfield Elementary District
  • J O Combs Unified School District
  • Cibecue Community School, Inc.
  • Wilcox Unified District
  • Kayenta Boarding School
  • Flagstaff Unified District
  • Cottonwood Day School

Published: May 15, 2019

Highlights from the newly released Training Curriculum & Brochure

Each year, ADE School Nutrition Programs releases an updated Training Brochure. The brochure lets you know what trainings are being offered, where and when they are being offered. Program Year 2020’s brochure brought a few surprises you don’t want to miss.

  1. In February 2019, ADE hosted Menu Planning Boot Camp – a two-day intensive menu planning training in Phoenix. Registration for this training filled up within hours of being announced. Based on the popularity of the training, Menu Planning Boot Camp is on the Program Year 2020 brochure and being offered regionally! ADE trainers and reviewers will be hosting Boot Camp in Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Tucson throughout the summer. This training is highly interactive and structured as a competition between teams. On day two, each team even gets their own coach (an ADE reviewer) to help make sure they master crediting menu items. Register for the Menu Planning Boot Map here to save your spot before these trainings are full.
  2. Did you know that ADE offers over 140 potential hours of training each year in four different formats? With all those options, it’s easy to miss the perfect training opportunity for yourself or your employees. To help you find the right trainings for every member of your team, ADE has drafted specialized curricula for various roles within school nutrition programs. Keep in mind, every LEA operates differently, so if you are a Director who also plans menus, you will want to look at the Director curricula and the Menu Planner curricula. It’s not required that each position complete every recommended training, but it helps take some of the guesswork out of creating training plans.
  3. ADE is launching a brand-new webinar series this fall called upLIFT (Learn, Inspire, Feed, Teach). This series of thirty-minute monthly webinars is created for school nutrition professionals to learn and get inspired in how and what you feed your students. This supports ADE School Nutrition Programs overall goal of helping SFAs positively influence dietary behaviors in students. For an SFA who wants to attain more baseline nutrition knowledge or learn some new best practices, this series is the perfect addition to your training plan.

    In addition to these highlights, many classic ADE trainings are being offered again this year, Staying on Track webinars are continuing, and new online trainings are being released. Be sure to spend some time reviewing the brochure to create a learning plan for the upcoming year! We look forward to learning with you this year.

Published: April 19, 2019

Whole Grain-Rich Pledge!

Whole grains are packed full of beneficial nutrients. There’s fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and even protein! Each of these nutrients plays an important role in maintaining your health. Fiber promotes proper digestion and helps you feel full. B vitamins support energy production and creation of blood cells. Antioxidants help fight off harmful substances in your body. Protein is an essential building block for muscles, bones, skin and even blood!

ADE recently hosted a webinar overviewing the nutritional differences between whole grains and enriched grains and how to understand the USDA Final Rule on School Meal Flexibilities concerning whole grains. If you missed the webinar, you can review the recording and webinar slides here.

Over the past several years, Arizona LEAs have done an outstanding job implementing whole grain-rich requirements for school meals, and ADE is eager to support schools as they serve these items. On April 11th, ADE invited LEAs who so desire to sign a pledge to serve all whole grain-rich items in lieu of the updated flexibilities around whole grains. Within the first week, these 12 SFAs signed the pledge!

  • Alhambra Elementary School District
  • Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind
  • Ash Creek Elementary School District
  • Avondale Elementary School District
  • Casa Grande Elementary School District
  • Chinle Unified School District
  • Lake Havasu Unified School District
  • Palominas Elementary School District
  • Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District
  • Southgate Academy, Inc.
  • Tempe Elementary School District
  • Tucson International Academy

Your district can join those listed above by clicking here to sign the Whole Grain-Rich Pledge! All LEAs who sign the pledge will be listed on the ADE School Nutrition Programs Website and will receive stickers in the mail. After you receive your stickers, please share a photo of yourself or staff with your stickers and tag ADE!

    Instagram and Facebook: @ADESchoolNutrition
    Twitter: @ADESchoolNutr

If you do not use social media, please send your photos to [email protected].

Whole Grain Rich Sticker
We Love Whole Sticker

Published: March 13, 2019

National School Breakfast Week (NSBW) 2019 Photo Contest!

Thank you to all who participated in ADE’s National School Breakfast Week (NSBW) 2019 Photo Contest! Lots of positive buzz was generated around school breakfast, and ADE was thrilled to have many fabulous photo entries showcasing delicious meals and happy students. Contest winners were chosen for promoting involvement of students and community members in their festivities or high nutritional quality and variety of foods highlighted during NSBW. Now, without any further ado, we are pleased to announce our National School Breakfast Week 2019 Photo Contest Winners!

Queen Creek Unified District
Queen Creek Unified Districts SBP Photo Contest
Why we love this entry: This post by Queen Creek Unified School District shows the local mayor, town manager, a school principal, and the superintendent making pancakes for students to help celebrate NSBW. Including local leadership in NSBW is a fantastic marketing tool, but more importantly, communicates to students the importance of eating a healthy breakfast every day!

Dysart Unified District
Dysart Unified Districts SBP Photo Contest
Why we love this entry:This post not only communicates that breakfast helps fuel strong bodies and minds ready to learn, but Dysart also used this post to market the six breakfast options they were offering to students throughout the week – including fresh fruit and yogurt smoothies!

Portable Practical Education Preparation, Inc.
Portable Practical Education Preparation SBP Photo Contest
Why we chose this entry: Would you just LOOK at that colorful breakfast tray? We were so impressed by this breakfast tray that included all five components. There’s huevos rancheros on a corn tortilla with egg and fresh salsa, kiwi, a whole grain blueberry muffin, mixed berries, and low-fat milk. This meal includes culturally relevant foods as well as an out-of-the ordinary fruit, kiwi!

Thank you again to all our contest participants, and congratulations to our winners!

Published: February 20, 2019

Healthy Hearts, Happy Hearts!

Did you know February is Heart Health Month?

If you work in school nutrition, you probably have a big heart. You care about meeting the needs of children on the most basic level – their daily meals. Providing healthy meals for the next generation is no small task – but it is just as important to take a step back and care for yourself. To be your best for the students you serve, you need not only have a kind heart, but a healthy one too!

Here’s four tips to add heart-healthy habits to your day and model healthy behaviors for the students you serve.

    1) Reach for more fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are packed nutrients that benefit your heart and are naturally low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol which harm your heart. Eating more fruits and veggies can improve your health and set a positive example for students. By offering fruits and vegetables to students every day, you are helping them build beneficial eating habits for their long-term heart health. If you want to take fruit and vegetable exposure to the next level at your schools, consider applying for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and register for the Overview of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) for School Year 2019-2020 Webinar on April 8th.

    2) Try monitoring your sodium intake. Sodium, more commonly known as salt, is a sneaky mineral that can cause high blood pressure. When you’re at the grocery store, check the nutrition facts label for products that are low in sodium content. If you’re not sure what qualifies as low, look for items that are <10% of the daily value for sodium per serving, or have indicated “no salt added.” By limiting sodium, the NSLP Meal Pattern helps children learn to eat less salty foods.

    3) Limit saturated fats and totally quit trans fats. Not all fat is bad! Unsaturated fats improve heart health. Olive oil, nuts, fish, hummus, and avocados are examples of healthy fat sources. Saturated and trans fats which are harmful for your heart are typically found in animal fats and deep-fried foods. Fun fact: the NSLP meal pattern ensures that ZERO trans-fat is in any school meal served!

    4) Reduce your sugar intake by re-thinking your drink! Do you know why 100% juice is the only juice we serve in school meals? Part of the reason is to control added sugar intake. Sugar increases the calories in our foods and beverages without adding any beneficial nutrients – doesn’t seem fair does it? By monitoring how much sugar is in your beverages, you can reduce thousands of calories each week. Water must always be available to children during meal service, because it is the best choice when you are thirsty, especially in the Arizona heat.

Be sure to share your heart healthy habits and meals by posting to social media and tagging @ADESchoolNutrition and using the hashtags #FuelingAZ and #HeartHealthy!

Published: January 17, 2019

Everything You Need to Know About the ADE Online Training Library

Everyone has a different learning style. Some of us are visual, some audial, and some of us learn best by doing. Some people love to come to in-person trainings and work face-to-face with a trainer. (We love seeing you too, by the way!) Others prefer the comfort of their office and avoiding travel. Many school nutrition professionals are stretched thin on time, and simply do not have time to travel for in-person training opportunities. To meet the needs of those who either don’t want to come to an in-person training or simply do not have the luxury to do so, ADE created an Online Training Library to empower you to train at your own pace, on your own schedule, choosing your own content. Here’s what you should know to successfully navigate the ADE Online Training Library.

1.The library is organized by learning codes. Learning codes help you document training appropriately for your professional standards training hours. You’ll need the learning code when you complete the survey at the end of training.

    a. 1000 – Nutrition
    b. 2000 – Operations
    c. 3000 – Administration

The library also includes trainings specific to state reporting, using CNP Web, Direct Certification, Direct Verification, and operating and applying for special assistance.

2. New trainings are added frequently. In this program year alone, three new online trainings have been added! The ADE training team is constantly seeking to meet the training needs of the field, by adding new creative trainings in every format. Most recently added was Step by Step Instruction: How to Complete Daily Edit Checks. This training is perfect for those who are new to counting and claiming, need to train new staff members, or just want a refresher prior to their administrative review. Another recent added training worth checking out is Step by Step Instruction: How to Submit the Second Review of Applications Report in CNP Verification.

3. Don’t skip the survey! At the end of each online training is a survey link. This survey takes about two minutes to complete. (Seriously, we timed it.) This is your opportunity to let the ADE training team know what other content areas would help you in your job. The survey not only helps ADE expand and improve training material, but also is the only way you will get a certificate of completion. Without the survey, ADE does not have any record of your training participation, so be sure you fill it out and get your hours counted!

Published: December 19th, 2018

Menu Planning Resources You Should Know

Do you struggle to create a menu that meets the meal pattern and is loved by students? Here’s a few resources to keep handy when searching for ideas to freshen up your old menu!
1. Make use of the Food Buying Guide by visiting You’ll find information to help with purchasing the right foods for your menu as well as the contribution of foods to the meal pattern requirements. It is also available as a web-based interactive tool kit to help you search and navigate through foods easily.

2. The Food Buying Guide Mobile App is available digitally, to make it easier to access it while you are on the go. Go to to find more information and download the app to your iOS or Android phone.

3. The Institute for Child Nutrition (ICN) is a great resource for school food service professionals. It has a wealth of resources in the form of face-to-face training opportunities, webinars, USDA recipes, food buying guide calculator, evidence-based research, and best practices in implementing Child Nutrition Programs and much more. Visit ICN’s page at

4. USDA’s Team Nutrition has a Recipes and Cookbook Toolkit available for free online. Just follow the link to explore Recipes for Healthy Kids: Cookbook for Schools. Recipes provided are complete with nutrient information and crediting information.

5. Finally, register for ADE’s 2-day Menu Planning Boot Camp, February 6th-7th! SNP Specialists will provide training on the meal pattern, menu planning, crediting, and building a four-week cycle menu that works for your school district. You’ll even get to work with an ADE reviewer to make sure you are crediting and planning correctly. Registration is NOW OPEN, and space is limited, so click here to register for this unique training opportunity before it is too late!

Published: November 16th, 2018

Five Tips for Submitting a Flawless Verification Summary Report

Verification Summary Report (VSR) is now available! Some SFAs have been doing this for years, and you can complete this report in your sleep. For others, making sure your VSR is submitted correctly gives you butterflies in your stomach, blurred vision, and all other kinds of anxiety. Here you’ll find five tips from ADE to calm your nerves and submit a flawless VSR.

1. Attend one of the Drop-in Workshops for Submitting the Verification Report ! If you can travel to Phoenix, Tucson, or Flagstaff, this is totally worth the trip. You can work 1-on-1 with your Specialist to make sure your report is just right. For some SFAs, this may be the only time you see your specialist in person all year, so what better time to touch base?

2. Refer to ADE’s Verification Reporting Guides! ADE has customized guides to walk you through what goes in each field on the VSR and which fields to leave blank. There is a guide for SFAs operating regular NSLP, Provision 2/3, CEP, and RCCIs. No matter your scenario, there is a reporting guide to help you make sense of the VSR. Find these Guides on the Verification webpage under the tab titled “Phase 4: Report”.

3. Complete Step by Step Instruction: How to Submit the Verification Report in CNP Verification. This online training is a win-win-win. You can complete it at your own pace on your own time, learn how to submit your VSR, and receive 1 professional standards training hour! Hint: be sure to complete the survey at the end to get your certificate and give ADE record of you completing this training!

4. Get organized BEFORE you start completing the report. Being organized is the secret to a stress-free verification season. If you have been following along with Verification Tracking Forms, be sure to have those handy.

5.Start the report early. The report may not be due until February 1st, but it is very possible you will run into questions as you work on your VSR. If you do have questions, having extra time to contact your Specialist for help, register for a workshop, or use any of ADE’s resources will help you stay stress-free. Hint: Be sure to save your work as you go!

Most importantly, remember to take deep breaths and ask for help when you need it. We hope to see you at a Drop-in Workshop soon!