Food News Today transcripts for April 20th, 2011

April 22, 2011

An interview with Sean Harper- the CEO of Feefighters, the school food revolution- what you haven't seen on tv, and why keeping a fat diary is the best tool you can have. For the week of April 18th, 2011, this is food news today.

 Good Morning.  Immediately following Food News Today, we continue with a live discussion in our chat room below. Please join us. Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting and unbiased food news. 


 >Despite all the hoopla, and with both limited resources and rising food costs, school nutrition programs across the country have been working away behind the scenes, and making tremendous progress in offering healthier meals in school cafeterias, according to the School Nutrition Association, a national, non-profit professional organization, that provides high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. But not all of these successes have had their 5 seconds of fame (like the success Jamie Oliver saw from his stint in the Cabell County school system) - good news about school meals just doesn’t bring in the TV ratings nor their deserved accolades. The School Nutrition Association’s Back to School Trends Report found that schools are serving more whole grains and fresh produce, while working to reduce added sodium and sugar in foods served on the lunch line.  Many school districts are encouraging extra helpings of fruits and vegetables and now have fresh salad bars.  And over half of schools are increasing vegetarian options.  The report also shows that nearly a third of districts are purchasing locally sourced items while more than half use energy efficient equipment and 44% recycle packaging waste. Many schools have implemented kids cooking competitions, partnerships with local chefs and garden nutrition education programs.  

One disturbing fact is that most school cafeterias out there do not have trained staff nor equipment to cook foods from scratch. But even these schools have started using higher quality prepared foods including leaner meats, more whole grains and less salt and sugar to make even the prepared foods served in schools healthier than ever. Examples include: baked sweet potato “fries” or wedges, and pizza served on whole grain crust with low-fat cheese and low-sodium sauce.  Cooking healthy can be achieved on a budget and these changes have only come because of hard work and the perseverance of school nutrition professionals.  END We must remember three things that when advocating for healthier food choices: the first - the cost constraints, second the complexity of the rules governing the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and to acknowledge the great work that is already producing change.

>Understanding the business of restaurants is something many chefs find out the hard way.  But now there are many tools to help restaurateurs succeed.  Earlier this week I had the chance to chat with Sean Harper, CEO and Co-Founder of FeeFighters, a free online comparison shopping engine that lets business owners quickly find the best rates for credit card processing services. Think of it as Orbitz or Expedia for credit card processing.Clients of FeeFighters include many restaurants and as a result, the firm conducts research into the ins and outs of the restaurant industry. 

Thanks Sean, and hey did YOU know that contrary to popular thought, the failure rate of restaurants is only around 26% and not the 90% that is commonly assumed.  END I wonder if that stat will change thanks to the groupons of the world that attract just the bargain hunters an forcing restaurants into huge discounts - often receiving just 25% of the menu prices.

>Did you know that the average person recalls only half of what they eat? Though you may remember what you had for breakfast, what about the extra nibbles you had while watching TV, browsing the web, chatting on the phone or picking off your kids' plates?

A food diary puts a stop to this lack of accountability. According to Dr. Christopher J. Mosunic, a weight management and diabetes specialist at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut writing down what you eat is one of the most powerful weight loss tools. “Keeping a food diary is like exercise; it will always help you lose [weight] if you do it consistently,” he said in a news release. In observing his patients he finds that those who keep food diaries are usually very successful and their treatment programs last only months versus those who are not so keen on food diaries – their treatment programs can sometimes last years. The National Weight Control Registry recently reported that that keeping a food journal is one of the top strategies used by most successful dieters and a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that dieters who tracked their food intake lost twice as much weight as those who did not. On we offer our readers a free online diary - its called Phil's Fat Diaries (yes, I know that is not politically correct!) and to date we have 7,648 people who have used the diaries. The simple act of keeping a daily food diary can be quite revealing. It can tell us what nutrients we aren’t getting enough of, keep track of calories and fat, point out sources of stress or environment that provoke overeating, or what foods result in energy slumps. In addition, diaries can assist in managing food budgets, showing us where money can be better spent on healthier items and cutting costs in other unhealthy areas. The act of keeping the diary can broaden your knowledge of how to find a healthy balance with budget and diet. END Want to start tracking your intake, or share a tool with your audience that is sure to help, just go to

For Food News Today, I’m Phil Lempert, thanks for joining us. If you have a colleague in retailing, the media or a blogger who would like to also receive our advance email - please send them to to sign up. Next weeks stories will be in your Tuesday email.