Untitled 1 Real Food for Kids - Montgomery


Información en español

Buy from Amazon from our link and a portion of the sale will go to RFKM!

As a teacher in MOCo public schools I see the negative effect this so called food has on students daily. Many of these students count on these meals as their only food for the day and sugar and chemicals aren't fitting for creating a positive learning environment.

-an MCPS Teacher

Firme nuestra petición en apoyo de legislación que tenga vigencia en todo el estado

5 de febrero de 2015. Healthy School Food Maryland, la coalición de la cual formamos parte, preparó una nueva petición que se circulará en todo el estado, cuyo fin es promover siete iniciativas legislativas distintas que serán sometidas a votación en las sesiones de la Asamblea General de Maryland y que contribuirán a la adopción de reformas saludables a los servicios de comidas de todas las escuelas públicas de Maryland. ¡Gracias a las gestiones realizadas por RFKM a nombre de la coalición, tenemos legisladores que patrocinan todas nuestras iniciativas en la Cámara de Delegados y senadores que patrocinan 6 de nuestros 7 proyectos! También encontramos varios legisladores que copatrocinarán distintos proyectos en ambas cámaras, entre ellos muchos integrantes de los comités que darán debate inicial a las iniciativas. Al firmar esta petición, usted estará apoyando la legislación propuesta, destinada a mejorar las normas de nutrición y transparencia por las que hemos hecho campaña desde la fundación de RFKM. Necesitamos su ayuda para darla a conocer por todo Maryland y aumentar las probabilidades de que estos proyectos se conviertan en legislación. Por favor, firme esta petición y distribúyala entre sus amigos y sus familiares que viven en el estado.

Shop at Amazon.com and benefit RFKM

Amazon.com will donate a portion of your purchase to RFKM (through our fiscal sponsor, Chesapeake Institute for Local Sustainable Food and Agriculture), if you shop at Amazon from our Amazon Smile link: 
Amazon Smile
Please bookmark this link so you'll benefit RFKM each time you shop!

I was stunned to learn that my kids can buy junk in the elementary and
middle school cafeterias, right after studying "Nutrition" in their

-an MCPS Parent

Families eating at recipe contest

Somos Montgomery - Comidas en las Cafeterías MCPS

Somos Montgomery did a Spanish-language video on our work pushing for healthier school food. Please pass on to your Spanish-speaking friends!   

Read our Current E-News

RFKM's Co-Founders Given Azalea Award

May 22, 2015. On Sunday, May 17, the Takoma Foundation awarded KarenKaren Devitt and Lindsey Parsons with Azalea awards
Devitt and Lindsey Parsons, RFKM's co-founders, the Azalea Award for School Awarding of Azalea AwardActivist. We were very happy and thankful for this recognition of our work by the foundation and the people of Takoma Park.

Legislative Session Wrap Up

Healthy School Food MarylandMay 22, 2015. The Maryland state legislative session ended on April 13. The Healthy School Food Maryland coalition, which RFKM built, had some partial victories on the 7 bills we proposed: passing our Farm-to-School expansion through the House of Delegates; and having our School Food Transparency and Thirsty Kids Act voted favorable in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee (despite opposition testimony from the Maryland School Nutrition Association) and sent to the floor for a vote. Unfortunately, when opposition was brought to both our bills on the Senate floor by Republican Minority Whip Steven Hershey, Jr. (representing Kent, Queen Anne's, Cecil, and Caroline counties on the Eastern Shore), it was difficult for the Senators sponsoring our bills to counter it. Objections he brought to the Thirsty Kids Act (which at that point had been amended down to only including reusable water bottles on all supply lists) included a concern that children would waste class time going to the fountain to fill up their bottles, or that children might put Palcohol (powdered alcohol, a new invention) into their bottles. Ultimately, the Thirsty Kids Act was pulled back into committee and given an unfavorable report subsequent to its favorable report.

The next bill to make it to the floor, the School Food Transparency Bill (which at that point had been amended down to only require schools to either post a la carte lists to their web site or send them home once a year) was accused of being an unnecessary and burdensome mandate on the entire state due to concerns brought only by parents in Montgomery County. Additionally, our own Board of Education (at the request of the staff in the Department of Food and Nutrition Services - DFNS) submitted testimony against it, and DFNS staff showed up on the day of the vote to lobby against it. While we had demonstrated through testimony in committee that the concerns of parents in Montgomery County were common to schools all over the state, with almost all districts not listing at all or hiding a la carte items in Nutrient Lists, this testimony is not typically seen by legislators outside of the committee considering the bill. But in fact, ultimately, when the bill came to a vote, it lost 24-21, with three Senators from Montgomery County voting against it: Nancy King, Cheryl Kagan and Brian Feldman. Overarching concerns from many Senators related less to the content of our bills but rather to whether it was the role of the State Legislature to tell school districts how to manage their school food programs.

Once the Transparency bill failed, it doomed the fate of our other bills in committees both in the Senate and in the House, because typically Committee Chairs do not want to pass bills out of committee that will be voted down on the floor. So sadly, none of our remaining bills were even voted on in committee in either chamber. Guaranteeing votes to the committee chairs was impossible at that point, because legislators’ calendars become so booked at that point that you can’t even get in to see them, and few will commit to voting for anything anyway.

But the amazing part of all this was all the help that our members and legislators around the state brought in these efforts. Senators Raskin, Montgomery, Nathan-Pulliam and Young and Delegates Waldstreicher, Smith, Moon, Platt, Hixson and Miller sponsored our bills. We delivered 53 different written or oral testimonies to support our bills. Nine different people (in addition to Lindsey and Karen) from the county or from our coalition partners around the state came to testify in person to support the bills; 887 people, many from other parts of the state, signed our petition in support of the bills; and many, many of you wrote emails to your legislators to ask for their support. So what we did accomplish, we could not have accomplished without you or our coalition partners, so thank you!

All in all, while it was disappointing to not pass anything this year, we have learned a lot about the process and feel confident that we know how to get the job done next year, albeit with perhaps a much smaller number of bills!

2015 Member Priorities Survey Results

January 6, 2015. The results are out for our 2015 member priorities survey. We were very pleased to have 404 responses, which is a 27% response rate for our parent members. The top ten priorities of our members are listed below. Parent priorities have not changed greatly from last year, but we do have two new items (numbers 8 and 10) in our top ten list this year, as we have suggested new possible solutions/goals for addressing member concerns. The greatest concern of parents this year (and number 2 from last year) is a menu populated with typical kid foods like chicken nuggets and pizza and the desire for a more diverse menu. Most notably absent from our top ten list this year was our number 1 priority from last year: "Advocating for a system-wide solution for easier access to free, unlimited water in cafeterias." This is likely due to our success in addressing this issue through advocacy last year that resulted in the offering of free bottles of water in elementary schools this year.

Read the full report

Rank Priority Score


Offering at least one meal per day that is not typical "junk food" (e.g. not pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, etc.).



Replacing unhealthy a la carte items with healthier items.



Eliminating or drastically reducing typical "junk food" options.



Setting an upper limit for sugar in any product served in MCPS that is stricter than the current limit of 35% by weight.



Offering unlimited fruits and vegetables free to all children who purchase lunch.



Removing remaining chemicals from the list developed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest that was included in our petition from MCPS food (some have already been removed).



Moving from processed, pre-plated and reheated food to food cooked from scratch at the central facility with more prep work done on site at schools with kitchens.



Pushing for 25% scratch-cooked main dishes by the start of the 2015-2016 academic year.



Replacing unhealthy vending items with healthier items in machines that are on during the school day.



Getting MCPS to reduce sugar loads per meal (by limiting a la carte purchases, only serving white milk with sugary entrée items, or through some other method).



MCPS to Remove Chemicals from School Food

October 15, 2014.  Real Food for Kids – Montgomery (RFKM) is pleased to announce that after over a year of advocacy work with the Montgomery County Public Schools on the topic of food dyes and other chemical food additives, MCPS Director of Food and NutritionFood served at SSIMS Fall 2014 Services Marla Caplon has announced that from now on, a number of dangerous additives will be prohibited from bids for food served in its cafeterias. We are very thankful to MCPS and Ms. Caplon for hearing and acting on parent concerns. The list includes a number of artificial food dyes (Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Yellow 5 and 6); artificial sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame-potassium and saccharin; trans fat; lean finely textured beef (AKA pink slime); MSG; BHA and TBHQ. These chemicals were all identified as potentially harmful by scientists for Center for Science in the Public Interest, who worked with RFKM to develop a target list. RFKM members (who now number over 3500) have expressed concern about these chemicals due to studies linking them to ADHD, cancer and other adverse effects. While many parents keep their children from consuming these chemicals by avoiding school food, 34% of children in MCPS qualify for free and reduced priced meals and may eat up to three times a day at school. Children who are sensitive to these substances may suffer from hyperactivity after consuming them, which impacts the classroom environment and should therefore be of concern to all MCPS parents.

The changes will affect all contracts going forward but will not affect existing contracts until they expire. These changes will remove from sale many popular a la carte snacks in MCPS, including Welch’s Fruit Snacks, Cheez-It Crackers, Cool Ranch and Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, Baked! Cheetos, Eagle Popped Crisps, several flavors of the Ridgefield’s Fruit Smoothies and several ice cream bars with artificial colorings. While some parents may be concerned that students will have few choices left, there are in fact many excellent, clean-label snacks available and the example from other school systems indicate that with time, students get used to new options. We have also identified a few of the entrée items and sauces that will be impacted, including the spicy chicken breast patties, orange chipotle sauce and sweet and sour sauce.

While we’re very excited about the chemicals that will no longer be in our children’s food, we must note the absence of other substances that we requested be removed in our June 3 petition to the school board: red dyes #2 and #40, blue dye # 1, caramel color, artificial flavors, azodicarbonamide, sucralose, cyclamates, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), potassium bromate, sodium benzoate, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), BHT, sodium nitrite/nitrate, substances similar to MSG that contain glutamate, such as Torula yeast and hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Mycoprotein (Quorn), and sulfites/SO2. We recognize that the exclusion of these remaining chemicals would necessitate a substantive change in the way MCPS does school food, as almost all of the processed foods served in MCPS contain one of these substances, which may have impacted the decision for a partial list. RFKM has communicated parent desires that MCPS move from their model of serving processed, reheated food to preparing food fresh in their central facility, thereby eliminating many chemical additives. With the opening of a new central facility estimated in January, we are hoping that more and more items will be prepared from scratch at the county level. We will continue to advocate on this point and need your help to do so. We would like to move to having one full-time staff person at RFKM in the new year, but we need much more member support to do so. We would like to move to having one full-time staff person at RFKM in the new year, but we need much more member support to do so. Could you either contribute today or commit to be a monthly sustainer?

For food chemical nerds like ourselves, the complete list of chemicals to be banned is: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), trans fat, lean finely textured beef, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Aspartame, Acesulfame-Potassium, Saccharin, Butylated Hydroxyanisol (BHA), Potassium Bromate, Propyl Gallate, Sodium Tripoly Phoshate (STPP), and Tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).

Media coverage:

Montgomery schools to prohibit certain chemicals in foods - The Gazette

Doritos, Fruit Snacks Get the Boot as Montgomery County Schools Ban Certain Additives - CBS DC

         Copyright © 2014   Chesapeake Institute for Local Sustainable Food and Agriculture (RFKM's fiscal sponsor)