What the National School Lunch Program Provides

By Erin Wyatt a Recent ASU Nutrition Student

For children, the cafeteria is a social setting with a break from classwork and a chance to refuel. Unfortunately for some children, the cafeteria is the only chance to have a proper meal. This opportunity is provided by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which supplies children with reduced cost or free food during school hours. But what happens when these kids go home for the evening, over the weekend, or during an extended break? Luckily, different programs and foundations are making sure that these children do not go hungry during after school hours.

The National School Lunch Program enables students to receive lunches, as well as breakfast while attending class. This program provides many benefits to participating children. For one, it reduces the problem of food insecurity for them.1 The term food insecurity is described as being limited on availability and a variety of food options for a healthy diet. Schools can guarantee that a child in this situation will be able to to have a proper breakfast and lunch during school hours. This program also increases the likelihood that children will receive adequate amounts of vitamins and nutrients, therefore improving their overall health.1 Lastly, studies have shown that a fed child is a better student, in terms of grades, as well as behavior.1 When students leave school for the day, many teachers are concerned with the fact that they may not be able to receive sufficient nutrition at home. Thankfully, generous institutions have been popping up all over the country to supplement those children’s nutritional needs.

One such institution in Texas, the Irving Schools Foundation, is offering students bags of food to take home if their family is need of provisions. This “pantry” offers groceries to ensure that these students are able to get nourishment over the weekend, when school meals are not available. Food and preparation is supplied by donations and volunteers. The foundation aspires to implement these types of “pantries” in every school in the area, and to provide each child with hope and stability.2 Another example of a supplemental program is the potential bill that is being proposed in Oklahoma that would allow uneaten food from school cafeterias to be given to students in need. Currently, regulations do not allow the distribution of leftovers, they must be thrown away.3 The passing of this bill would not only provide meals for those students that rely on the school lunch programs for guaranteed nutrition, but also combat food waste.3 It appears that more and more attention is being paid to the importance of childhood nutrition. These examples of different strategies to tackle food insecurity show that innovative measures can and should be taken to succeed to ensure that no child goes hungry.




  1. Food Research & Action Center. (n.d) Benefits of school lunch. Retrieved from http://www.frac.org/programs/national-school-lunch-program/benefits-school-lunch
  2. Rogers, B. (2019). Food for thought: Irving middle schoolers won’t go hungry. CBS 11 News. Retrieved from https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2019/03/28/food-for-thought-irving-middle-schoolers-wont-go-hungry/
  3. Allison, M. (2019). Lawmakers consider bill to give excess food at schools to children in need. KJRH News. Retrieved from https://www.kjrh.com/news/local-news/lawmakers-consider-bill-to-give-excess-food-at-schools-to-children-in-need

Looking for some recipes to make to impress the whole family check out the recipe section. Check out our in season produce section, this helps keep food prices economical.

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The T on Tomatoes 

 Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Outreach Director

 Let’s talk tomatoes, the world’s most popular fruit and in Arizona too! The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2017 Census of Agriculture shows Arizona hosting 61 acres of tomatoes grown in the open (The United States has 335,000+ acres), though this isn’t counting the various tomato plants you might have in your backyard garden. Plus, about 33% of Arizona’s open-grown-tomato acres are in Maricopa County and another nearly 20% grown in Yavapai County.

Also, from the 2017 Census, the United States greenhouse tomato sales were valued at $419 million. Based on the value of sales, Arizona is at $14.1 million, this makes our state the sixth highest producer in the U.S., behind California, Texas, Ohio, New York, and Minnesota, in greenhouse-grown tomatoes. Bet you didn’t realize that!

From USDA’s annual estimating program, U.S. open-field tomato production in 2017 was dominated by California, which grew 90% of the total production. The U.S. open-field tomato production totaled 246 million cwt (~12.3 million Tons) and was valued at $1.68 Billion. This includes both fresh and processing tomatoes. Arizona is not in the annual estimating program.

But we can’t leave you hanging on the vine without sharing some of our favorite facts about tomatoes.

  1. Arizona ranks 6th in U.S. greenhouse tomato production.
  2. The plants typically grow to 3 to10 ft in height and have a weak stem that often sprawls over the ground and vines over other plants. It is a perennial in its native habitat, although often grown outdoors in temperate climates as an annual. An average common tomato weighs approximately 4 ounces. They come in yellow, pink, purple, black and even white colors with7,500 to 10,000 varieties worldwide.
  3. Tomatoes are considered the world’s most popular fruit with annual production of 60 to 125 million tons worldwide helping them remain the most demanded fruit in the world. Second spot goes to bananas and third to apples, followed by oranges and watermelons.
  4. Types of tomatoes include slicing (globe) tomatoes used in processing and for fresh eating. Beefsteak tomatoes are large, often used for sandwiches. Oxheart tomatoes vary in size and are shaped like large strawberries. Plum tomatoes (including pear tomatoes), are usually oblong, and used in tomato sauce and paste. Cherry tomatoes are small round, often sweet and eaten whole in salads. Campari tomatoes are sweet and juicy of small to medium size. Plus, the tomato is a member of the nightshade family of plants, which also includes eggplant, goji berries, potatoes, and chili peppers.
  5. Found at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida the largest single tomato plant in the world covers an area of 56.73 square meters. That’s bigger than an Olympic-size swimming pool.
  6. Tomatoes are also an excellent source for vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K. They are also a very good source of copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E, and phosphorus.
  7. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that is good for the heart and effective against certain cancers. Cooked tomatoes are actually better for you than raw ones, as more beneficial chemicals are released.
  8. The tomato is eaten in many ways, raw like a fruit, as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salsas, salads, processed into ketchup or tomato soup. Tomato juice is made as a drink and used in cocktails like a Bloody Mary.
  9. Scientifically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit. True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower and contain the seeds of the plant.
  10. In 1887, U.S. tariff laws imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruits. This meant the status of tomatoes became a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Nix versus Hedden that tomatoes were to be considered vegetables based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, where they are usually served with dinner and not as a dessert. However, the courts did not reclassify the tomato botanically, it is still a fruit.
  11. 600,000 tomato seeds traveled to the International Space Station and back before being grown in school classrooms all over Canada as part of the ‘Tomatosphere I, II, III and IV’ experiments.
  12. Historians say tomatoes originally came from Peru, where their Aztec name translated to pump thing with a navel.
  13. The first tomatoes in Europe may have originally been yellow.
  14. Tomatoes are very popular in Mediterranean cuisines such a Italian. They are an important ingredient in pizza and pasta sauces.
  15. China is the number one producer of tomatoes around the world. The U.S. is second.
  16. Tomatoes are the state vegetable of New Jersey. But they are the official state fruit of Ohio and tomato juice is the official beverage of Ohio. However, Arkansas took both sides by stating the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato is the state fruit and state vegetable, due to its culinary and botanical classification.
  17. La Tomatina tomato fight in Buñol near Valencia, Spain happens every year on the last Wednesday in August though the partying starts earlier in the week. The highlight of the festival is the tomato fight which takes place between 11 am and 1 pm on that day. About 242,500 pounds of tomatoes are pelted at everything that moves. The event has become one of the highlights on Spain’s summer festivals calendar with thousands of people flocking to this little Valencian town for this chaotic event. And, after the La Tomatina, the village cobblestone streets are pristine due to the acidity of the tomatoes disinfecting and cleaning the surfaces, according to Wikipedia.
  18. Did you know Heinz Tomato Ketchup has a speed limit? If the yummy sauce pours at more than 0.028mph when it’s in the Heinz Tomato Ketchup factory, it’s considered too runny and rejected!
  19. According to the History Channels, tomatoes were put “on trial” on June 28, 1820, in Salem, New Jersey. In front of a courthouse, Robert Johnson ate a horde of tomatoes in order to prove they weren’t poisonous. The crowd waited for him to die. He didn’t.
  20. And, in Arizona we grow lots of tomatoes from backyard gardens to large greenhouse production in Willcox with Naturesweet Tomatoes Farm.


Want some tomato-based recipes or looking to learn how to grow your own tomatoes in Arizona’s climate? Then go to fillyourplate.org, Arizona Farm Bureau’s website full of blog stories about health and nutrition and gardening. Most of our recipes are provided by Arizona’s own farm and ranch families.

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The Nutritional Content of Canned Versus. Fresh Produce

By Vanessa Evens A Recent ASU Nutrition Student

It’s no secret that canned produce has a little bit of a bad reputation, but is that reputation based in fact or fiction? We’ve all heard that cooking vegetables takes out some of their nutritional value so canning them must have some effect right? Research is saying not necessarily.

Canned vegetables are not only convenient, but they are very cost-efficient as well. We’ve been told for years that canned vegetables are not as high in nutrients as frozen or fresh produce but research is suggesting that is not the case. The key is for the canned goods to not have added sugars or salts. If canned foods are free from these two things then they are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.


How can this be true? Well, the answer is relatively simple. Fresh produce loses some of its nutritional value during shipping and storing, and canned vegetables lose some of their nutrients (particularly water-soluble nutrients like vitamins B and C) in the canning process. The key component here is that the canned vegetables aren’t exposed to a lot of oxygen, which is what makes our fresh produce go bad. The more time that fresh produce is exposed to oxygen, the more it loses its nutritional value.


This same thing goes for canned fruits. Just make sure they are free from added sugars. This is great news for our kids’ packed lunches as well as our pantries. Stocking up on canned vegetables is convenient, and quick. They make an easy addition to any meal to up your produce consumption.


This also means that all of your fresh produce you buy but can’t consume in time, or the produce you grow from your very own garden can be canned by you at home and maintain its nutritional value for a later date.


Now that you know canned foods are just as healthy, here are some things to look out for while you are perusing the canned vegetable aisle. The first thing as we mentioned before is no added salts or sugars. Next, you want to make sure you are looking for cans that are free from BPA, which is argued to have multiple negative health effects.


Branch out and try some things from the canned foods aisle that you’ve maybe not tried before. In addition to your regular veggies, beans, and fruit, try canned fish, canned pumpkin or sweet potatoes in your baked goods. Try making your own marinara sauce with canned tomatoes, or just try a new vegetable like artichokes.


With this good news about the good nutritional value of canned produce, it is even easier to make a nutritious meal for your family every night without breaking the bank or taking all night!



Are Canned Foods Nutritious for My Family? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/are-canned-foods-nutritious-for-my-family


Canned foods nutritionists swear by. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/canned-foods-nutritionists-swear-ncna920811


O’Connor, A. (2013, May 27). Really? The Claim: Fresh Produce Has More Nutrients Than Canned. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/really-the-claim-fresh-produce-has-more-nutrients-than-canned/


Looking for more articles to help boost your healthy living? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some recipes that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the recipe section on our website.

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The Power of Garlic

By Morgan Crawford A Recent ASU Nutrition Student

Garlic: It’s useful more than just for warding off vampires. In fact, it’s helpful for fighting viruses, infections, and so much more. This ingredient makes just about anything taste delicious, but more importantly, it has incredible healing power. Garlic has been used for centuries and is regarded for its medicinal properties. I’m excited to share them with you, as well as perhaps encourage you to add more of it to your life!

What is garlic, anyway? Is it a spice? A vegetable? It may come as a surprise that garlic actually belongs to the Allium family, just like onions and leeks. Similar to its family members, it is grown underground and is wrapped in the familiar, thin, paper-like covering. There are two varieties of garlic, known as hardneck and softneck. The difference between them is whether a seed stalk is formed or not: hardneck varieties produce them, and softneck do not. Another defining characteristic is the number of cloves within each bulb; it can vary from 4 and 20 depending on the variety.

Most of us are familiar with using garlic as a flavor enhancer for a variety of dishes, but what about its health benefits and medicinal properties? The main component of garlic that contributes to its healing abilities is a compound known as allicin. This is what gives garlic its pungent smell flavor. It also plays an important role in several functions throughout the body. Some of these include tumor- growth reduction, immune stimulation, cholesterol reduction, treatment of sinus infection, and prevention of heart disease.

Since ancient times, garlic has been used for its powerful healing abilities. It is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. Because of these properties, garlic is useful for treating infections, eliminating yeast overgrowth known as Candida, and strengthening the immune system. The high levels of vitamin C also contribute to its cancer-fighting abilities by reducing free radicals in the body. There are also some more lesser known remedies. Here are a few that you could try at home.

  1. Easing an earache- in a small pot, warm olive or sesame oil along with 1-2 garlic cloves. Place a few drops in each ear and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Warding off warts- every night, take a crushed garlic clove and apply to the wart. For the best results, do this at least two times during the day as well.
  3. Treating a toothache- when garlic is crushed, allicin is released, which is an anti-bacterial compound. This has been shown to be effective in treating the underlying causes of toothaches.


Once equipped with some knowledge about this delicious ingredient, I think it is only fitting to put it to some good use. There are endless possibilities for incorporating garlic in the kitchen. Check out these recipes!

I think it’s fair to say that almost everyone loves pizza. What’s there not to like? I found a recipe for a pizza sauce that incorporates garlic in a delicious way. Try out this recipe for White Garlic Pizza Sauce.


2 tbsp. unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves- minced

3 tbsp. flour (all purpose or gluten free flour)

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp dried oregano

1 cup milk

½ cup Parmesan cheese




  1. Melt butter in saucepan.
  2. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Whisk in flour, pepper, salt, and oregano.
  4. Add milk slowly and whisk the mixture until thick and all lumps are gone.
  5. This can be used immediately or can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge.



Here is another great recipe that incorporates garlic. This cauliflower dish is the perfect alternative to rice, providing extra nutrients with less empty carbohydrates.

Garlic Parmesan Cauliflower Rice


5 cups riced cauliflower

3 tbsp. butter- salted

3 garlic cloves- minced

6 tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste



  1. Place butter and garlic in a saucepan and cook until fragrant.
  2. In a large frying pan, add cauliflower rice along with the butter and garlic mixture.
  3. Add Parmesan cheese and stir.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.


For more awesome recipes check out the Fill Your Plate recipe section! Curious about what produce is in season this month? Check out what’s in season on the Fill Your Plate website.


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Eating Red for Your Heart

By Angela Bates a Recent ASU Nutrition Student

New Study Finds Anthocyanins Linked to Lower Cardiovascular Disease

 You may be familiar with the Go Red for Women campaign, which has a red dress as a symbol of prevention for heart disease in women, which has become the #1 cause of death in th4e United States female population. According to a new study in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular-related deaths may be lowered by anthocyanins. The results found that those who consumed high amounts of anthocyanin were 9% less likely to have heart disease and 8% less likely to die from heart disease-related issues.

Today’s Dietitian explains that anthocyanins are the pigments that are found in red-orange to blue-violet fruits and vegetables. Plants naturally produce these as a defense mechanism to protect against frost, drought, and UV light damage. Anthocyanin is most abundant in berries, red cabbage, red grapes, eggplant, plums, and more. In the case of this study, with results released November 5, 2018, the Cherry Marketing Institute (http://www.choosecherries.com) was a partial financial contributor but did not have any part of the design or execution of the study.

Professor Glyn Howatson of Northumbria University, U.K., said that this scientific review is the most comprehensive analysis of the link between cardiovascular disease and intake of anthocyanin. It had already been suggested that there was a link between the flavonoids, but this study pieced much of the research together. Professor Howatson and his colleagues reviewed over 19 studies that had been published on dietary anthocyanin intake and heart disease-related outcomes, such as heart disease, stroke, heart attack, etc. Combining studies that followed participants for 4 to 41 years, made up of over 602,000 total adults from Australia, Europe, and the United states, they were able to find a correlation.

After analyzing the results, Professor Howatson’s team found that higher dietary anthocyanin intake was associated with a lowered risk of heart-disease related incidents. They also found that the results were especially significant in the United States studies, possibly suggesting that anthocyanin can have a bigger effect on the American diet than on other country’s diets.

Previous research suggests that anthocyanin foods can prevent high cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels and may also lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, which affects over 3 million Americans. Montmorency tart cherries are especially high in anthocyanins and have been studied for their possible inflammation reduction, heart health benefits, and sleep benefits. They are the most common variety of U.S. grown tart cherries and according to the Cherry Marketing Institute, they are the most studied type of cherry.

For those interested in supporting Arizona agriculture and reaping the possible benefits of anthocyanins, there are many foods to choose from. Early in the year, red grapefruit and blood oranges can provide the phytochemical and a boost of vitamin C to get you through the winter. June is cherry season in Arizona and it also kicks off plum season. Both contain high amounts of anthocyanins. The Yuma area grows red cabbage on around 500 acres of land, but beware that the color may change when it is cooked, but you will still have the flavonoid benefits. Finding ways to eat your anthocyanin while supporting Arizona farms is easy.

For more recipes be sure to take a look at the Fill Your Plate recipe section. If you liked this article, then you will love the Fill Your Plate blog.

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