The Patriot High School cafeteria in Nokesville, Va. Students and parents from the Prince William County School District were invited to the annual food tasting to sample some potential items on the school menu. Photo by Hakim Fobia, AMS
When you walk around many of the nation’s cafeterias, you will notice that plenty of changes have taken place on school lunch menus. Thanks to new standards and other efforts by the USDA, the lunches for our children have become healthier.
The new standards, which were implemented for the 2012-2013 school year, made significant improvements to the National School Lunch Program. Some of the changes include offering only fat-free or low-fat milk options, ensuring that fruits and vegetables are served every day of the week, and increasing the amount of whole grain-rich foods on menus. Read more »
A youngster enjoys a crisp apple for lunch at the Puerto Rican Association for Human Development’s Mi Escuelita summer food program site in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. More than 75 kids enjoy physical activities such as soccer and basketball followed by a free healthy lunch each day during summer thanks to the USDA Summer Food Service Program.
Children need good nutrition all year long. When school is out during the summer months, many children no longer have access to even one nutritious meal each day. Research shows a lack of nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins. We must do all we can to ensure that children get nutritious food during the summer months so that they are ready to learn during the school year. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is intended to feed kids during these “meal gap” periods. Read more »
It’s been two years since President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law. The Act cleared the way for historic improvements to the child nutrition programs, such as school lunch and school breakfast, that serve millions of our nation’s children. We’ve already implemented many provisions of the Act, with many schools reporting success in meeting the new standards, and students finding the new school meals to be an improvement from the status quo. This coming year will be a busy one as we continue to make program updates that help us fight both child hunger and obesity.
Because of the Act, we’ve been able to improve standards for the content of school lunches—and soon school breakfasts— making them healthier than ever before. However, I know implementation is a process that takes time, and as the school year progresses we will continue listening and providing additional education, technical assistance, and flexibilities where appropriate. Throughout this first year, we are closely monitoring implementation and adapting the support we provide to States and schools based on challenges that arise.
We also made the first real reimbursement rate increase for those meals in 30 years to help schools adjust to the changes. Because we know how influential the school environment can be when it comes to encouraging kids to make healthy choices, USDA will propose new standards for other foods sold in schools including in vending machines. Read more »
Tough times and dire circumstances have a longstanding history of bringing America’s communities and organizations together. The recent storms that descended on much of the nation’s Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions have underscored these important partnerships.
For many of the stricken areas, including the urban centers in the Northeast, natural disasters of this scale are relatively rare. And households containing the very young, elderly and those with special needs are of particular concern to USDA and our many partners engaged in these emergencies.
To aid those in Hurricane Sandy’s crosshairs, USDA swiftly coordinated with FEMA, States, and partner organizations to provide disaster nutrition assistance in 13 states. By issuing automatic, mass replacement of SNAP benefits to certain households hit by the storm – for instance – SNAP individuals and families currently participating in SNAP will be able to replace their food purchased with SNAP benefits that spoiled due to flooding and power outages. In the severely affected areas of New Jersey and New York SNAP recipients will be granted a waiver to purchase hot foods with their benefits. In addition, USDA has worked with retailer trade associations to ensure SNAP authorized stores are aware of this waiver and eligibility for the purchase of hot foods through the month of November. Meanwhile, several other States have been granted extensions to report loss of food purchased with their SNAP benefits and to request replacement benefits. Read more »
We’re continuing to answer questions we’ve received from folks about the improvements to school meals that started this school year. One concern we’ve heard is that students who may not be accustomed to eating particular foods may throw them away. We know it is important that students get the calories and nutrition they need to stay alert and energized through the day and schools are doing a number of things to make sure this happens. Read more »
You may have heard this year’s back to school season is a little different than in past years. There is a new, healthier look for the school lunch menu. These updates represent the first major changes to school meals in 15 years, and we know that these changes come with questions. We’ve promised to keep the dialogue open, and we are working to ensure that we answer them all.
The vast majority of students, parents, teachers and school service professionals have had great positive feedback on the new, healthier lunches. However, a few parents have expressed concerns that kids will come home from school hungry or not get enough to eat during the day because their kids have higher caloric needs – in particular, kids who are athletes. Schools and families have – and have always had – multiple options for addressing their needs. Read more »