The National Education Association believes that every student deserves a great public school. A high-quality school nutrition program is not an add-on or ancillary service, but is an integral part of that great school.
The USDA school meals programs serve well over 30 million students per day, nationwide. We rely on our partners in the education realm to help us ensure that these programs—not only programs of great magnitude, but also of great public health importance—are implemented appropriately so that children are healthy and ready to learn. This week’s guest blog from the National Education Association is a testament to their members’ commitment to student health, and the important role that school nutrition plays.
By Roxanne Dove, Director, National Education Association, Education Support Professionals Quality
The nearly half-million Education Support Professionals (ESPs) who are members of the National Education Association play vital roles in helping to create great public schools for our students. ESPs work as bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, classroom paraeducators, food service staff, and in many other jobs as part of a unified education workforce that helps ensure that children are safe, healthy, well-nourished, and well-educated.
As readers of this blog may know, our country’s youth are facing twin crises of obesity and food insecurity — limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods. Nearly one in three American children are overweight or obese (White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity: Report to the President, 2010) while 16 million face food insecurity (USDA Economic Research Service, 2013). In a sad irony, food insecurity leads to both hunger and obesity. Because they lack access to or can’t afford healthier food, food insecure families may be forced to choose inexpensive, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods. Read more »
Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, students across America are being served meals with more fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Parents can send their kids to school knowing that the healthy habits they teach at home are being reinforced at school, with breakfast and lunch menus that provide more of the foods we should eat, and less of the foods that we should avoid.
Parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, communities, and policy makers are working hard to make sure that school environments support a healthier next generation. Read more »
Hummus and Pita Bread, Sunflower butter string cheese and fruit, Turkey and cheese sandwiches prepared for the National School Lunch Program at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.
As many schools wind down for the year, USDA is gearing up for exciting new improvements designed to make the 2014-2015 school year even healthier for our nation’s future leaders. It’s a commitment rooted in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. In that legislation, USDA is directed to update the school meals to reflect the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The new school meal requirements are intended to ensure children get the nutrition they need for academic performance and overall health. That’s a mission USDA takes seriously. Feeding kids, and feeding them well, can be a challenge. I understand that as a former school nutrition director, mother, and now grandmother. Plus, we know that change, in general, can be difficult. That is why we are working closely with schools to make sure the transition to the updated standards runs as smoothly as possible. We are listening to what school nutritional professionals, teachers, parents and students are telling us. These partners are the heart and soul of the school community and we have provided flexibilities based on their important feedback. Read more »
Dr. Janey Thornton, FNCS Deputy Under Secretary
On March 12-14 the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) will host their 2014 Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington, DC. Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS), will be in attendance on behalf of USDA.
“I’m thrilled to see so many partners coming together in support of a healthier next generation,” said Dr. Thornton. “Although we have collectively made strides toward reducing the impact of childhood obesity, there is still much work to be done.” Read more »
Students from Harmony Hills Elementary School in Md. bonded – via Skype – with students from Dairy Primary School in Scotland on the first International School Meals Day.
Visiting schools around the country to discuss the importance of health and nutrition with students and educators is one of the favorite parts of my job. Today, I had the opportunity to share these nutrition messages globally! On this day, USDA recognized the second annual International School Meals Day (ISMD), where schools around the world celebrate by promoting healthy eating and learning. This year’s theme was “Food Stories.”
I joined students and staff at Watkins Mill High School, an International Baccalaureate World School in Gaithersburg, Md., to highlight the occasion. There, a select group of students from the International Cultures and Cuisine class shared their school food and nutrition experiences via Skype with other high school students from Acklam Grange School in Middlesbrough, England. Read more »
Given that many children today eat two meals a day at school, it’s vital that we make every effort to ensure that they have access to the healthy foods they need and the knowledge to make healthy choices. The proposed school wellness policy guidelines and the expansion of community eligibility announced by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the White House this week mark important steps forward.
We are so excited to see all the great progress that is being made in schools today. Over 90 percent of schools are successfully meeting the new school meal standards, and participation is up in many areas of the country. As more schools, parents, and children continue to embrace healthier school meals, we are seeing great progress in areas such as Dallas, large school districts in Florida, and the city of Los Angeles, where we saw a 14 percent increase under the new standards. Read more »