Fayetteville Public Schools has been awarded $80,000 in grants over the next three years from the Life Time Foundation to help improve the nutritional quality of school meals by eliminating ultra-processed foods and accelerate scratch and speed-scratch cooking practices through the support of an additional registered dietitian and chef specializing in school food operations.
The Life Time Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works with more than 35 school districts across the nation to eliminate foods containing highly processed and artificial foods. This grant is the Foundation’s first support of a school district in Arkansas.
“We are honored to partner with Life Time Foundation for the next three years to systematically review and improve our program’s ingredient and recipe quality, operations and equipment, marketing, and professional development,” said Ally Mrachek, MS RD Child Nutrition Director at Fayetteville Public Schools. “We’re making great progress in ensuring our kids are served healthy and good food and this financial support and expertise from the Life Time Foundation will ensure we make meaningful progress toward our long-term goal of more equitable access to tasty and scratch-prepared school meals.”
The funds will pay for staff training and equipment to improve meal program participation, program access, cultural inclusivity, and support student health and education. Meals and products recommended for the program will be free of undesirable ingredients, which are often found in highly processed foods, including:
Trans fats and hydrogenated oils
High-fructose corn syrup
Hormones and antibiotics
Processed and artificial sweeteners
Artificial colors and flavors
Fifty-five percent of FPS nutrition ingredients already meet the Life Time Foundation standards.
“We’re thrilled that our work, affecting healthy change for kids across the nation, now includes those in Fayetteville”, said Kimo Seymour, Executive Director of Life Time Foundation. “We understand that students who eat foods free of highly processed ingredients are able to remain more alert and better retain knowledge; given that the district served an impressive 1,129,882 meals in the 2020-2021 school year, our work will have an enormous impact.”
Already, the funds have allowed the district to purchase electric knife sharpeners, produce slicers, and launch a new menu viewing software to help parents and students be more aware of the meal plans and to help increase access and participation in them.