Brace yourself, parents. The whirlwind school day mornings are almost here.

School days are often accompanied by a mad scramble to make sure your kids have everything they need, and that they haven’t somehow tied their shoes together. It’s tempting to hasten the process of preparing a lunch by simply throwing a few packaged items together. However, this can often result in a meal that’s lacking in healthy nutrients and high in fat, sodium, and added sugar.

What’s a good balance for a school lunch? The USDA’s MyPlate program recommends that half of a lunch plate be dedicated to fruits and vegetables, one-quarter to grains, and one-quarter to protein, with a modest amount of dairy also allowed. 

Some healthy lunch and snack options include:

Tips for preparing a healthy lunch

Feeling pinched for time? Coping with picky eaters? These tips might help:

Nutrition in Connecticut schools

For many years, Connecticut’s schools have stressed the importance of proper nutrition. USDA school nutrition programs are administered through the Connecticut State Department of Education, and foodservice professionals in schools develop menus designed to meet or exceed USDA dietary guidelines.

Students can enjoy breakfast and lunch options, along with healthy snack options and programs that offer fresh fruit and vegetables. Parents can look up more information on these options on school websites, which often contain additional information such as the calorie count of each meal.

In addition, Connecticut’s Farm-to-School Program educates students on gardening in nutrition while highlighting the importance of fresh, locally grown produce. Earlier this year, 13 school districts and educational partners were selected to receive Connecticut Grown for Connecticut Kids grants to support infrastructure improvements, experiential learning, farm-to-school planning, and pilot programs to support the purchase of CT Grown products for schools.

Celebrate Farmers’ Market Week and Support Your Local Farmers

It’s officially National Farmers’ Market Week (Aug. 7-13), the 32nd annual celebration of our farmers and the vital role farmers’ markets play in our food system. 

There’s no better time to visit your local farmers’ market — not only to support the farms in your community — but to also enjoy local, fresh and healthy foods and high-quality products available at affordable prices. And with more than 100 certified farmers’ markets and farm stands located throughout Connecticut — you are sure to find a great farmers’ market right in your community.

Find a farmers’ market 

“Connecticut’s farmers’ markets are a collective effort fostering direct-to-consumer sales, reinforcing the farm to plate connection, and providing a crucial entry point for new and beginning farmers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “Farmers’ markets fuel local economies and provide increased access to nutritious, fresh CT Grown food for our most vulnerable populations.”

Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Underway Through November 30

Need another reason to visit your local farmers’ market? Here’s one!

Farmers’ markets offer food nutrition programs — allowing consumers to stretch their food dollars with the purchase of fresh, locally grown farm products while supporting new and beginning farmers, as well as established producers.

The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), administered by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, received additional funding through the state legislature for eligible individuals to redeem checks at certified farmers’ markets or farm stands throughout the state. Eligible individuals include seniors over the age of 60 and women, infants, and children (WIC) who meet certain guidelines. Here in Connecticut, eligible WIC and Senior participants can receive up to $32.00 in Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program checks to purchase fresh Connecticut Grown fruits, vegetables, cut herbs, and honey. Newly added to the list of eligible items this year are eggs.

Many farmers’ markets also participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — some even offering double purchasing power. In 2021 alone, over $100 million in federal nutrition benefits were redeemed at farmers’ markets across the nation.

Check Distribution Sites

Find a Senior FMNP check distribution site

Check Redemption Sites

Find Senior FMNP authorized redemption locations

Recipe ideas using products from Connecticut farmers’ markets

Need ideas on how to incorporate CT Grown products into your home-cooked meals? Here are some great recipes that are affordable, easy to make, and of course, delicious! The best part, each of these recipes are centered around ingredients grown by Connecticut farmers, and available at a reasonable price. 

Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic (Green Bean Market Price: $4.00/quart | Garlic Market Price: $5/head): Snap into a refreshing and zesty summer side dish with locally grown green beans — in season now!

Greek Stuffed Eggplant (Eggplant Market Price: $4.00/quart): Light, yet filling, Connecticut Grown eggplant is the centerpiece of some great healthy recipes — including this Greek inspired dish that can incorporate several other locally grown products (tomatoes, peppers, feta, etc.).

Kale and Peach Smoothie (Kale Market Price: $3.00/bundle | Peach Market Price: $5.00/quart): Healthy and refreshing, this recipe can be made using several locally grown products. Want to make a special treat? Freeze it and make smoothie popsicles — refreshing on a hot summer day. 

A list of all certified farmers’ markets can be found at www.CTGrown.gov/farmersmarkets or visit www.CTGrown.org to access the interactive map to find a farmers’ market or farm stand near you.