Promoting Whole Grains
- Put up posters in the cafeteria or hallways; tape index cards to lunch-line sneeze guards.
- Engage students in trivia-type games about a food item during their cafeteria time. Use the "Fun Facts" sections to develop trivia questions.
- Use the Newsletter sample to communicate with parents about upcoming local food on the menu.
- Send home a Home Recipe so families can try a home version of food that will be served in the school cafeteria.
- Use the "Fun Facts" and photos of food items to build your own newsletter articles.
- Give teachers an announcement to read to their class about a local food item that will be served at the school.
- Supply teachers with a poster that they can put up in their classroom.
- Invite teachers to check out the classroom enrichment materials for more in-depth activities around each local food item.
Cool Stuff About Wheat!
Did you know all grains start out as whole grains? In their natural state growing in the fields, whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. This seed, known as a "kernel," is made up of three key parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.
Wheat kernels are about the same size as rice grains, with 12,000 to 20,000 seeds per pound. A bushel of wheat weighs about 60 pounds and contains about one million seeds. The seed of wheat is a storehouse of nutrients essential to the human diet. The seed contains complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, iron and several B vitamins (e.g. riboflavin, niacin, thiamine).
Wheat has come to dominate the grains we eat because it contains large amounts of gluten, a stretchy protein that allows bread dough to rise so that bakers can create loaves of bread. Without gluten, all breads would be flat like pancakes or tortillas.
In Minnesota, hard red spring wheat represents nearly all of the 1.82 million acres of wheat produced. It is grown primarily in Northwestern Minnesota. Hard red spring wheat is used primarily to make breads and hard rolls. Some durum wheat is produced in Minnesota and used for pasta. In Minnesota, most of the harvest occurs in August.
Try whole wheat using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch you will have the opportunity to sample whole wheat in FOOD ITEM from FARM NAME/CITY.
Cool Stuff About Oats!
Did you know in 2005 Minnesota ranked fourth in oat production in the United States? Oats are used for both human food and animal feed.
In Minnesota, oats are often planted as a "nurse crop” or “companion crop” with alfalfa or clover to help those forage crops get established. In Minnesota, oats are usually planted in late March to May. Oat breeding was one of the first applied research projects at the University of Minnesota. ‘Sesqui' is the most recent oat variety as it celebrates the University of Minnesota Sesquicentennial (150th birthday).
Oat seeds can vary in size. Seed color may be white, yellow, red, gray or black. Minnesota grows only white and yellow oats. Oats are still a multiple-use crop. In addition to animal feed and bedding, they are found in a wide variety of breads, cereals of all types, granola bars and as a thickener in infant foods.
University of Minnesota cereal and nutrition scientists documented how beta-glucan, found in oat fiber, lowers the risk factors for heart disease. Oats are now widely promoted as the "most healthy" grain.
You can pick some up with your family at the local farmer’s market or FARM NAME. Try using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch, you will have the opportunity to sample oats in FOOD ITEM from FARM NAME/CITY.
Cool Stuff About Cornmeal!
Did you know cornmeal is simply ground corn kernels? Corn kernels are ground into three textures: 1) fine, 2) medium, and 3) coarse. Fine is often called "corn flour." Medium is the most commercially available and coarse is also known as "polenta."
Cornmeal is yellow, blue or white depending on the type of corn used. Cornmeal is available in two main styles: steel-ground and stone-ground. Steel-ground is most commonly found at the supermarket. It is commercially milled with huge steel rollers that completely remove the corn's husk and germ. Stone-ground is ground with mill wheels that use water power. Because this process retains most of the hull and germ, stone-ground cornmeal is more nutritious. Cornmeal adds a sweet and robust flavor to pancakes, cornbread, hushpuppies, and tortillas.
The corn seed can be separated into parts. Separated embryos of corn seeds can be dried and then cooked with water. This makes "grits," a breakfast specialty of the southern United States.
You can pick some up with your family at FARM NAME. Try using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch, you will have the opportunity to sample cornmeal in FOOD ITEM from FARM NAME/CITY.
Newsletter for Wheat
In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown wheat from [FARM NAME] in [CITY] . Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.
- All grains start out as whole grains. In the fields, whole grains are the entire seed, or kernel, of the plant. Can you name the three key parts of a kernel?
- Minnesota produces about 1.82 million acres of what variety of wheat each year?
- A bushel of wheat weighs about 60 pounds and contains about how many seeds (or kernels)?
- The bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the kernel, and is tough enough to protect the other two parts of the kernel from assaults by sunlight, pests, water, and disease. It contains important antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber. The germ is the embryo which, if fertilized by pollen, will sprout into a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats. The endosperm is the germ’s food supply, which provides essential energy to the young plant so it can send roots down for water and nutrients, and send sprouts up for sunlight’s photosynthesizing power. The endosperm is by far the largest portion of the kernel. It contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
- Hard red spring wheat (used primarily to make breads and hard rolls)
- Each bushel of wheat contains about one million seeds.
Newsletter for Oats
In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown oats from [FARM NAME] in [CITY] . Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.
- Oats were discovered thousands of years ago in Egypt and have been used both for human and animal foods. In 2005, Minnesota ranked ________ in oat production in the United States.
- Why are oats often called a “nurse” or “companion” crop?
- Explain why oats have the reputation as the “most healthy” grain.
- Oats help to establish crops of alfalfa and clover. The oat plants emerge and grow quickly, protecting the tiny alfalfa or clover seedlings from erosion and the drying sun until they can survive on their own.
- Oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. So if you see oats or oat flour on the label you are almost guaranteed to be getting whole grain. In addition, University of Minnesota cereal and nutrition scientists have documented how beta-glucan, found in oat fiber, lowers the risk factors for heart disease.
Newsletter for Corn
In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown cornmeal from [FARM NAME] in [CITY] . Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.
- Cornmeal is simply ground corn kernels. Which style is considered a whole grain and most nutritious: steel-ground or stone-ground? Why?
- Cornmeal comes in three textures. Which is the most commonly available?
- Name three ways to use cornmeal.
- Steel-ground is most commonly found at the supermarket. It is commercially milled with huge steel rollers that completely remove the corn's husk and germ. Stone-ground is ground with mill wheels that use water power. Because this process retains most of the hull and germ, stone-ground cornmeal is more nutritious.
- Corn kernels are ground into three textures: 1) fine, 2) medium, and 3) coarse. Fine is often called "corn flour.” Medium is the most commonly available, and coarse is also known as "polenta."
- Cornmeal adds a sweet and robust flavor to pancakes, cornbread, hushpuppies, and tortillas. Also use cornmeal to bread fish and meats.
Fun Facts About Wheat
Did you know…?
- The bran is the outer covering of the wheat seed, and is about 14% of the seed weight. It contains a small amount of protein, larger quantities of the B-complex vitamins (e.g. riboflavin, niacin, thiamine), trace minerals, and indigestible cellulose material also called dietary flour.
- The germ is about 3% of the seed weight. The germ is the embryo or sprouting section of the seed. It contains the most fat of the three seed parts, and also some of the B-complex vitamins.
- The endosperm is about 83% of the seed weight. The endosperm contains the greatest share of the protein in the whole kernel, carbohydrates, iron as well as many of the B-complex vitamins.
- Beginning in 1880 and for 50 years thereafter, Minneapolis was known as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World.”
- Minnesota farmers harvested about 10 bushels of wheat per acre in 1890. Up to that time feeding more people meant planting more land: by cultivating prairies, clearing forests, or draining wetlands. Today, yields of 60 bushels per acre are not uncommon, thanks largely to land grant university research.
- Research to improve wheat started at the University of Minnesota in 1889 when plant breeders and a cereal chemist first evaluated wheat varieties from Minnesota, Hungary and other parts of Europe, Russia, and Canada. After 10 years, their report summarized work with 552 varieties planted on the St. Paul campus.
- Bread wheat is described as “hard” or “soft” according to its protein content; as “winter” or “spring” according to when it is sown; and as “red” or “white” according to color of the kernels. Hard wheat has more protein, including more gluten, and is used for bread; while soft wheat creates “cake flour” with lower protein.
- Here is a short list of the wheat varieties produced from the University of Minnesota:
GLYNDON, 1915, was the result of a cooperative UM-USDA breeding effort that began in 1907 and continues today
MARQUILLO, 1928, was the first stem rust resistant variety from the U of M, but its flour was dark and was not accepted by the milling industry.
THATCHER, 1934, became one of the most popular wheat varieties ever grown in the U.S. By 1941 it occupied 17 million acres here and in Canada. Good yielding and resistant to stem rust, it was the result of plant pathologists working closely with plant breeders. In 1951, Thatcher was still the principle wheat in North America.
ERA, 1970, was the first semidwarf spring wheat released by a public institution. Semidwarfs are short and less likely to fall over before harvest, and growing energy is directed to the grain rather than leaves and stem. Era was the dominant variety in Minnesota until 1983.
MARSHALL, 1982, quickly became a leading variety and was planted on 70 percent of the state's wheat acres and over 5 million acres in the U.S. until 1990.
The above information about wheat was compiled from:
Fun Facts About Oats
Did you know?
- Oats were originally one of the most widely grown farm crops in the Midwest. The grain was used for protein and fiber in animal diets and the straw as bedding. Oats fit well into the labor and livestock intense system of 1900.
- As America developed so did its manufacturing, transportation, and agricultural systems. Farms became specialized and mechanized, with fewer and fewer draft animals needed to work on farms, or in cities, mines, or forests. In Minnesota, oat production was on 2,500,000 acres in 1900, peaked in 1945 at 5,392,000, and is 300,000 acres today.
- Early U of M research led to higher yielding varieties resistant to fungal diseases that can spread extremely fast and destroy the crop. In 1966 oat scientists began a cooperative research effort with Mexican breeders after stem rust decimated that country's oat fields. After improving Mexican varieties to incorporate rust resistance, Experiment Station researchers began work with scientists in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay where crown rust is still a severe problem.
- Oats are often used as a "companion crop" to establish alfalfa or clover. The oat plants emerge and grow quickly, protecting the tiny alfalfa or clover seedlings from erosion and the drying sun until they can survive on their own.
- In the US, most oats for human consumption are steamed and flattened to produce "old-fashioned" or regular oats, quick oats, and instant oats. The more oats are flattened and steamed, the quicker they cook – and the softer they become. If you prefer a chewier, nuttier texture, consider steel-cut oats, also sometimes called Irish or Scottish oats. Steel-cut oats consist of the entire oat kernel (similar in look to a grain of rice), sliced once or twice into smaller pieces to help water penetrate and cook the grain.
- Scientific studies have concluded that like barley, oats contain a special kind of fiber called beta-glucan found to be especially effective in lowering cholesterol. Recent research reports indicate that oats also have a unique antioxidant, avenanthramides, that helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol
The above information about oats was compiled from:
Fun Facts About Corn
Did you know?
- “Corn” originally was an English term used to denote small particles, especially grains. In England today, “corn” still refers to any grain, and “maize” is the word used for what U.S. residents call “corn.” The term “maize” is a derivative of a Native American word, mahiz.
- Corn is the largest crop grown in Minnesota. In 2007, there were 7,800,000 acres of corn harvested in Minnesota, yielding more than 1 billion bushels of corn grain. The total value of the 2007 crop was more than $4 billion.
- Corn grain is used for a wide variety of human food, animal feed, and industrial products. The different parts of the corn grain are broken down and used for different things. Corn starch and corn syrup are used in cookies, cake mixes, a wide variety of snack foods and breakfast cereals, soft drinks, breads, and candies. Cornmeal or corn flour is used for many kinds of chips and crackers, and many of those are fried in corn oil. Sugars and starch extracted from corn are used to make aspirin and IV solutions, and are used as a food source to grow the microorganisms that produce antibiotics. Substances extracted from corn are used to produce rubber tires, gypsum wallboard, spark plugs, paint and varnish, paper products, and toothpaste! Ethanol produced from corn can be used to run automobiles. A byproduct of ethanol production, “distiller’s grains,” makes a good feed supplement for livestock.
- Some kinds of acids and starches from corn are now being made into plastics that will compost and biodegrade, which helps to lessen the amount of plastic that goes into landfills.
- Farmers grow many different types of corn. The most common is yellow dent corn, also called “Number 2 yellow corn.” Specialty types of corn include blue corn, white corn, popcorn, “waxy” corn that has a high starch content, high-amylose corn that is used for ethanol production (amylose is a type of sugar), high-oil corn, high-lysine corn, flint corn, ornamental corn, and, of course, sweet corn!
- Many of the modern corn varieties are genetically engineered to withstand treatment with herbicides that kill weeds, or to contain genes for chemicals that will ward off insect pests.
- Corn is an important source of carbohydrates, protein, vitamin B, and minerals. As an energy source, it compares favorably with root and tuber crops, and it is similar in energy value to dried legumes.
- Whole-grain cornmeal is more nutritious than the more common “de-germed”cornmeal. Most of the niacin, an essential vitamin for humans, is found in the outer layer of the corn kernel. Some African and Latin American people who rely extensively on corn in their diet get a nutritional disease called pellagra from eating mostly corn with the outer kernel layer removed.
The above information about corn was compiled from:
Tasting Poster (1.2 MB PDF)
Three-Column Poster (3 MB PDF)
Index Card (1 MB PDF)
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Grains of Wheat
photo by Brett Olson
Renewing the Countryside
photo by Kent Lorentzen
Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
Cornmeal and Oatmeal
photo by Jane Grimsbo Jewett
- The Power of 3: Get Healthy With Whole Grain — A guide about whole grains from the University of Minnesota
- General Mills: Go With the Whole Grain for Kids — Whole Grain Heroes teach kids in grades K-5 about the benefits of whole grain. Classroom activities, fitness activities and more! Nutrition materials can be ordered free by health professionals
- Healthful Whole Grains (PDF) — A guide on whole grains from Kansas State University
- Munching Maniacs (PDF) — Learn about and prepare whole grain foods from the University of Illinois.