Food service professionals from Arlington Public Schools discuss the day’s lunch service of Baja Fish Taco Wraps, Turkey Hot Dogs, Cherry Tomatoes w/dip, Baked Beans and Fresh Fruit for Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. The National School Lunch Program operates in public, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions, providing nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
As a former school nutrition director, I am amazed when I visit schools around the country and repeatedly witness students clamoring for items like baked kale chips—who would have ever thought that was possible? Truly, schools have done an absolutely tremendous job of implementing the new meal standards resulting from the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. I am so proud of all that our nation’s school nutrition professionals have done to provide healthier, tasty meals to the millions of children who eat breakfast, lunch and snacks at school each day.
While schools have made—and continue to make—great strides across the whole realm of school nutrition, they are still facing challenges in meeting their goals. In particular, many schools across the country do not have appropriate or adequate kitchen equipment. The need for updated equipment is well-documented, most recently by a new Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project report entitled, “Serving Healthy Meals: U.S. Schools Need Updated Kitchen Equipment,” and ranges from cutting boards to refrigerator space. While some schools still need a significant investment in updated and upgraded equipment, many of the needs are simple and could cost as little as $32 to remedy! Read more »
Introducing students to healthy foods early on through farm to school programs is one way to reduce the amount of fruits and vegetables wasted in schools.
October was National Farm to School Month and at FNS we ended on a high note. We released our very first nationwide assessment of farm to school activities and there was a lot of good news to be shared. The Farm to School Census showed that adoption of farm to school activities is trending up; many schools that do not currently have farm to school programs are planning to start them, and millions of children are being exposed to healthy foods and learning about where food comes from. In fact, in school year 2011-2012, schools invested over $350 Million in locally produced, healthy food. This adds up to major benefits for American nutrition and local economies.
But the benefits don’t stop there. In addition to creating new market opportunities for farmers and producers across the country, farm to school programs are a way to get students familiar with healthy foods so that they don’t throw those items away when they end up on their cafeteria tray. Read more »
The last few years have seen significant improvements to the health of the school environment. Schools across the country are increasing their efforts to prevent childhood obesity by serving healthier school meals providing more time for physical activity, and helping kids learn about proper nutrition. It’s clear that the new, healthier school meals implemented last year are working and having a positive impact on the health of our next generation.
We recently surveyed states and schools across the country, and the vast majority of schools—80 percent—have already reported that they are meeting the updated meal standards successfully, with some states reporting 100% of schools completely transitioned to the new standards. We expect the remaining schools to “make it official” soon, too. In fact, a study just released by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project found that last year 94 percent of U.S. school districts said they were on track to meet the updated nutrition standards for lunches by now. Read more »
At a very early age, I learned about the value of healthy eating. By the time I was 11 years old and training daily as a gymnast, I knew that eating right would help me achieve my goals. The goals I had for health, athletics, and academic performance were all tied to eating nutritious foods, and that started with breakfast. As an adult, I’ve maintained goals for fitness and health and that’s why I make sure to start each morning with a healthy breakfast.
As a young athlete it was critical to give my body the nutrients it needed to compete at a high level in the gym and in school. I learned about healthy eating by going grocery shopping with my parents and then helping to prepare meals with my family. I was also influenced by the food around me at school. Now with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s expanded School Breakfast Program beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, our nation’s youth will now have more options for starting their day off right. Read more »
CDC Study finds Obesity rates among low-income preschoolers declining in many states. Credit: CDC
Here at USDA, we’re on a mission to help all of our nation’s children have the best possible chance at a healthy life. So, we’re very encouraged by some recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): the rate of obesity among low-income pre-school children appears to be declining for the first time in decades.
The declining rates show that our collective efforts are helping to gain ground on childhood obesity, particularly among some of the more vulnerable populations in our country. Low-income children are often at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the food they need to grow up healthy, which is why USDA’s nutrition programs and resources are so vital. Read more »
Our children are our most prized possessions and we must do whatever it takes to help them excel in the future. Leading them on the path to becoming part of a healthier generation, USDA revised the standards for meals and snacks served in their schools. Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to a New York City high school to see first-hand how students were adjusting to the new standards.
The changes to the meal and snack standards are in response to the passing of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Implemented in the 2012 school year, the new meal standards made several changes. Now, the 32 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program can enjoy more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grain foods and leaner proteins. The new smart snack standards, which will be implemented July 1, 2014, set minimum requirements for snacks sold in vending machines or as part of a la carte meals sold on campus during school hours. Read more »