School lunch staff and students enjoy the new school lunch menu created to meet the new standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, VA on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
In this week’s guest post, Dr. Stephen Cook describes the childhood overweight and obesity epidemic based on first-hand experience with patients in his clinical practice. He also discusses the important role that school nutrition plays in both short- and long-term health outcomes among our nation’s children.
Dr. Stephen Cook, M.D., Ph.D., American Heart Association Volunteer
It’s a hard truth to swallow, but childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions – and diet has a lot to do with it. In the city of Rochester, where I currently live and work, almost half of all children are overweight or obese. In fact, one of the patients in my practice was already considered obese at the tender age of three. By the time he turned four, his BMI was over the 98th percentile for his age. Read more »
New foodservice equipment makes preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.
Each and every school day, over 30 million children participate in USDA’s school meals programs; many of these children consume two or more of their daily meals at school. There’s no denying that school food plays a critical role in children’s diets, and USDA takes this responsibility very seriously. We are committed to doing our part to ensure a healthier next generation!
Given public concern about our children’s current and future health, USDA has issued updated school meal standards stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. These science-based standards call for increasing fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, while at the same time limiting less healthy fats, sugar, sodium and excess calories. Schools across the country are stepping up to the plate. In fact, about 90% of schools across the country are already meeting the updated standards! That’s not to say that their work is done. Some schools have found that they lack the necessary equipment or tools to prepare healthy meals for all students. Read more »
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 »
Schools across the country are telling us that they are successfully serving healthy, delicious breakfasts and lunches to students. But how do the students and staff feel about the changes? We interviewed students and staff at Bondurant-Farrar School District outside of Des Moines, Iowa to get their take on the new meals.
Lexi Atzen, a senior at Bondurant-Farrar High School says that school meals make her feel better. “When you eat good foods, you feel a lot better about yourself,” says Atzen. “You feel a lot better just in general, you have more energy. And then that leads into the classroom as well.” Read more »