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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

June 28, 2011

School’s Out, Summer Food Service Programs Are In

Eat Right Montana logofrom EAT RIGHT MONTANA

The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) and Montana Food Bank Network are on a joint mission this summer. Both organizations want to ensure children have easy access to Summer Food Service Program sites across the state.  "Food security is essential for the health and development of all of our children in Montana" said Anna Whiting Sorrell, Director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Funded by the US Department of Agriculture, the Summer Food Service Program supports free breakfast, lunch, and supper meals, as well as snacks, for hungry children in communities throughout the Big Sky country.

"For many children, the end of the school year is the beginning of a summer filled with fun and relaxation," says Christine Emerson, MS, RD, registered dietitian and OPI director of School Nutrition Programs. "For a significant number of Montana families, summer is an especially difficult time of year. During the summer, children from low-income families do not have access to school breakfast or lunch and their families may have a hard time putting enough nutritious food on the table. In these situations, Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP) can fill a critical nutrition gap."

Recognizing that hunger does not take a summer vacation, OPI and the Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN) are collaborating to provide critical outreach about local SFSP opportunities. This means increasing both the number of SFSP sponsors and the number of low-income children eating at SFSP sites. Thanks to a variety of SFSP sponsors, Montana children can enjoy healthy meals at schools, day camps, parks, recreation centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, Salvation Army centers, and a variety of other sites.

"The real problem in Montana is that only 16 out of every 100 kids who receive free or reduced price school meals also eat free SFSP meals during the summer," notes Minkie Medora, MS, RD, with the MFBN Food Security Council. "In our surveys around the state, we have found that many families do not know where the free summer meals for children are served. That’s why outreach and awareness are so important." Here are three ways that all Montanans can help ensure that at-risk children have access to SFSP meals:

Locate nearby summer meal sites to share with needy families: Montana Food Bank Network’s website makes it easy to locate summer meal sites at http://mfbn.org/summerfoodmt. With a click of your mouse, you can see the locations of SFSP sites by city/town or by county.

Volunteer in local programs to support summer activities: Many Montana SFSP programs offer more than lunch in the park. For example, the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools offers Reading Rocks (www.billings.k12.mt.us/bpef/), where volunteers read and provide free books to children.

Support the Montana Food Bank Network: As Montana’s statewide hunger fighting organization, the network (http://mfbn.org/) is building a unified force to provide long term solutions to food insecurity. Anyone can support MFBN efforts with a donation - large or small, and in many other ways as well.

"Food insecurity affects our most vulnerable Montana neighbors," explains Kate Devino, MFBN Director of Public Policy. "Supporting Summer Food Service Programs is an important way to help them."

Choose MyPlate ... at Picnics

The new USDA healthy eating graphic, ChooseMyPlate.gov, is a simple guide to smart meals anywhere. You can use MyPlate to quickly and easily plan healthful meals at home and on the go. MyPlate is perfect for picnics, since many picnic plates are already divided into sections!


The KISS Principle (Keep It Super Simple) is a delicious way to make picnics popular with people of all ages. Choose a limited number of foods (no more than 4 to 5 items) that can all be served at the same time. Make the meal fun with a simple theme - like red, white, and blue foods for the 4th of July or an all-kebob meal on small skewers.

  • Plan picnics for the yard, park, or lake: A picnic can make any meal special. Use beach towels for lunch in the backyard or pack a weeknight dinner to the park.
  • Plan to keep picnic food safe: Always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Frozen water bottles and juice boxes can do double duty as drinks and as chill packs.
  • Plan active fun with your picnic: Plan to play before and/or after you eat. Bring along a Frisbee® or two. Pack some balls (or water balloons when it is really hot).


  • Go fresh with fruits and veggies: Summertime is a very tasty time to follow the MyPlate tip to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Farmer’s markets and supermarkets have local produce at great prices. It’s easy to prepare simple tossed or fruit salads at home. Or take a bag of baby carrots and slice a melon once you arrive.
  • Go hearty with whole grains: Sandwiches, wraps, and pita pockets are perfect for picnics. MyPlate says to make half your grains whole, like whole wheat bread for sandwiches. Whole grains (cracked wheat, barley, brown rice, and the exotic quinoa) also make delicious cold salads, with chopped veggies and light dressings.
  • Go smart with protein and dairy: MyPlate suggests protein and dairy foods at every meal. Protein can be tuna in a sandwich or a cold salad with black beans or chickpeas. Serve well-chilled plain or flavored milk (fat-free or 1%) or refreshing drinkable yogurts. String cheese is always popular with kids and easy to carry along.


Treat your family to regular picnic times this summer. Everyone can enjoy time to eat in a relaxed and casual setting. Just remember to keep fun on the menu!!

Go OUTDOORS for FUN at a State Park!

While every day is great day to be outdoors in Montana, June, "Great Outdoors Month", is a special time to get into the swing of summer. Now that winter has passed and spring rains have turned the "Last Best Place" many shades of green, it is the perfect time to have some outdoor family fun. And, there are dozens of Montana State Parks - all sizes, shapes, and descriptions - that make wonderful, close-by destinations for free or inexpensive summer fun.


Learn where the parks are located: Planning your Montana State Park visits is super simple on the Fish, Wildlife, & Parks website (http://fwp.mt.gov/parks/visit/).

Explore the opportunities to play: On the website, you can search for parks that offer your family’s favorite activities, like hiking, water skiing, or bicycling. 
Plan the best times to visit your choices: Fill in a few dates on your family summer fun calendar, giving each person a chance to choose a different park (or two).


So many parks, so few days of summer! Montana State Parks really do offer something for everyone, including many locations with accessibility for those with disabilities. 

1. Ackley Lake: Camping (no fee) and fishing in the very heart of Big Sky country
2. Clark’s Lookout: One of many historical sites from Lewis and Clark’s Expedition
3. Giant Springs: Accessible hiking, biking, and picnicking near Great Falls 
4. Hell Creek: Full-service campground on Fort Peck near the Missouri Breaks  
5. Logan: Camping and boating on Middle Thompson Lake along the Idaho border
6. Medicine Rocks: Hidden treasure near Ekalaka for hiking and primitive camps
7. Placid Lake: More camping and boating in a full-service campground
8. Sluice Boxes: Mining history comes to life in this spectacular setting 
9. Tower Rock: Montana’s newest state park has a rich history, right off I-15
10. Yellow Bay: How often can you camp in the midst of cherry orchards?


Spending time in Montana State Parks is a perfect way to combine family fun with the physical activity everybody needs for good health. Just GO and have FUN!!

Family SUN Safety

Picnics, parks, and pools are all great for summer fun, but they can also be a problem for sun exposure. Children can get too much sun whenever they are outside - in the backyard or on a trip to the farmer’s market. Just a few serious sunburns can increase a child’s lifetime risk of skin cancer, the most common cancer in the US. Skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays any time children are outside.

What we know

While it’s important to play it safe with sun exposure any time of year, it’s especially critical during the summer when more skin is exposed for longer periods of time.

Everyone, regardless of skin color, is at risk for skin cancer: People with fair skin that freckles or burns easily are at the greatest risk. However, everyone - even if they tan or have naturally darker skin - is at risk and should learn to be sun safe.

UV radiation can go through thin clothing, windows, and clouds: UV rays can reach skin through a car windshield or a picture window. Sun protection is important on cloudy or hazy days as well as on bright sunny days.

Children need protection from UV radiation early in life: The effects of sun exposure are cumulative, so everyone needs serious sun protection from birth through their adult years. Unprotected skin can be damaged by UV rays in as little as 15 minutes.    

What you can do

Hide (from the sun) and seek (the shade).
During the summer, it’s smart to stay out of the sun, especially during the middle of the day when UV rays are the strongest and most harmful.
Seek shade under a tree, large umbrella, or pop-up tent. Remember that UV rays can also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, and sand.

Cover up from head to toe and slip on sunglasses too.
Clothing and hats can keep the UV rays from reaching the skin. Choose clothes that are made from tightly woven fabric. Hats should have wide brims.

Shades are cool - and they protect eyes from UV rays (which also increase the risk of cataracts later in life). Choose wrap-around glasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
Splash on the sunscreen and reapply often.
Like the other methods of sun protection, sunscreen reduces damage from UV rays, but does not eliminate it. Use sunscreen under clothes and hats - and even in the shade.

Use a sunscreen of at least 30 to 45 SPF (sun protection factor). Apply thoroughly and reapply every 2 hours, and after swimming or sweating.

Antipasto Kebobs

All 2011 recipes will meet the following criteria:

  • Require minimal ingredients that are easy to find and affordable
  • Involve minimal preparation time and use common kitchen equipment
  • Include a complete nutritional analysis and lots of delicious flavors


  • 1½ to 2 cups assorted fresh vegetables (baby carrots, halved radishes, bell pepper squares, whole miniature bell peppers, halved patty pan squash, zucchini, and/or mushrooms)
  • 2 oz. low-fat cheese cut into 1/2-inch pieces (part-skim or fresh mozzarella, provolone, smoked Gouda, etc.)
  • 2 oz. cooked smoked turkey sausage, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices and quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. refrigerated basil pesto
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 12 whole fresh basil leaves


  • Place vegetables, cheese, and sausage in a self-sealing plastic bag set in a deep bowl.
  • For marinade, in a small bowl, stir together pesto and vinegar; pour over vegetable/cheese/sausage mixture.  Seal bag; turn to coat all ingredients. 
  • Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.
  • On 12 4-inch-long wooden skewers, alternately thread vegetables, cheese, sausage, and basil leaves. Coffee stirrers can be substituted for the wooden skewers.

Yield: 12 skewers

Getting kids cooking:

  • Kids can make the marinade.
  • They can thread the vegetables, cheese, and sausages onto skewers or stirrers.
  • Kids can also turn the bag during marinating.
  • Serve kebobs as an appetizer or on a picnic buffet.
  • Create a tray with antipasto kebobs alternating with fresh fruit kebobs on the same size skewers.

Nutrition Analysis: 2 skewers

  • Calories: 84
  • Total Carb: 3 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1 g
  • Total Fat: 6 g     
  • Calories from Fat: 64%           
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g         
  • Trans Fat: 0 g    
  • Sodium: 188 mg
  • Calcium: 60 mg
  • Iron: 73 mg

Source: Adapted from WebMD

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD (EatRightMT2000@gmail.com) developed this information for Eat Right Montana, a coalition promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles. Past and current issues of Eat Right Montana’s monthly nutrition and physical activity tips can be downloaded free at www.eatrightmontana.org/eatrighthealthyfamilies.htm.)

Page last updated: 07/30/2013