As a new school year begins, I’m proud to say that the Obama Administration is taking historic steps to make the school day healthier for kids in schools across the country. I’m excited about the changes showing up in cafeterias this school year – more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; low-fat and fat-free milk choices; and fewer salty and fatty foods.
In addition to those changes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with parents, teachers and school cafeteria managers to ensure our kids get the right amount of food. Menus are planned for grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 and the meals are “right-sized” so that kids get the appropriate amount of calories and the correct portions of different foods. To further improve menu changes, we’re increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of sodium, saturated fat and trans fats available in those meals.
The improvements we’ve made are the first major changes to school meals in more than 15 years. These changes were much needed and long overdue. That’s why we fought so hard for a strong reauthorization of our child nutrition programs, and it’s why President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law in December 2010. The Act’s provisions allow USDA to feed more hungry kids, raise the standards for nutritious meals, and make the school environment healthier overall.
To get the word out, we’ve created a new web site that shows the many ways the school day will be healthier for our youngsters. The web site provides information on the improvements USDA is helping to make in school cafeterias, and what kids, parents and educators can expect this fall.
As students return to class, USDA will also continue encouraging healthy lifestyle choices – a key focus of this Administration’s efforts to help our young people thrive. First Lady Michelle Obama has been a champion for healthier lifestyles through her support of the Act and her Let’s Move! initiative. She set a goal of making the next generation healthier than the last. She knew it wouldn’t be easy, and that’s why she emphasized it would take all of us working together to achieve that goal.
As parents, you can help your child’s school continue to be a strong champion of healthier meals and physical activity, whether you are assisting them in starting a garden or helping them to participate in our HealthierUS School Challenge. To complement the changes at schools in your own home, you may consider recommendations from ChooseMyPlate.gov, the web site for MyPlate, our new generation food icon, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And all of us should remember to spend some active time outdoors each day, while helping our kids do the same.
I know that school is the perfect place for our kids to learn healthy eating habits – and it’s a place where we need to be sure they have the fuel they need to study hard, learn and grow. America’s parents, school districts and local governments have been tremendous partners in our efforts, and today marks the next step in our work together to make the school day healthier for our nation’s children.