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Dietitians Desir• Stapley and Corey Scarpero provide nutritional information to two girls. Link to photo information
Dietitians Desiré Stapley (left) and Corey Scarpero of the Healthy School Meals Resource System use educational materials to explain nutritional information to visiting students. Click the image for more information about it.

A Smorgasbord of Resources for Healthy School Meals

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
October 4, 2005

This month, to celebrate National School Lunch Week, many people are accessing customized resource materials from a unique part of the Agricultural Research Service: the Beltsville, Md.-based National Agricultural Library (NAL).

NAL manages the world's largest and most accessible compilation of agricultural research findings and hosts more than 60,000 web pages, including the Healthy School Meals Resource System. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

Online resources include interactive tools, studies and reports, and searchable databases, such as a directory of local consulting chefs who will visit schools. In addition to books and other printed materials, puppets, food models, videotapes, posters and CD-ROMS are also available. Downloadable materials include school lunch menu ideas and nutrition education materials for classroom teachers.

NAL materials can be borrowed locally through interlibrary loan between a participating private or public library and NAL. In addition, school food service professionals, principals, librarians, school nurses and teachers can borrow from the National Agricultural Library directly through an "Expanded Service Patrons" program.

Parents and other school volunteers who want to improve the nutritional quality of meals served in school cafeterias may borrow materials either through the interlibrary loan route, or by teaming up with an Expanded Service Patron.

The library will ship materials requested by an Expanded Service Patron without charge. Borrowers need only pay for return shipping of materials, as well as insurance. The privilege provides 30-day borrowing access to materials.

By the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year, each local school district participating in a USDA school meal program is required to establish a wellness policy. Healthy school meal advocates from among nearly 100,000 schools nationwide will find a broad array of support in the materials provided by The Healthy School Meals Resource System.

To get started, go to

The system is headed by NAL Nutrition Information Specialist Desiré Stapley. Read more about this resource in the October issue of Agricultural Research magazine.