It’s that time of year again. Children are heading back to school, but they aren't heading back to the same school lunch. We write to ask for your help to support schools' efforts as they implement new school meal standards this school year.
In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and as a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has updated the nutrition standards for school lunches. With one out of every three children in America overweight or obese, 31 million children eating school lunches, and 15 years since the last update, it was time for a change.
School lunches are now more wholesome and nutritious, with double the fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, only fat-free and low-fat milk, limits on unhealthy fats, and less salt. There are new age-based calorie ranges too, ensuring that children are served proper portions for their age.
The new school lunch standards are a great step forward, and schools need your help to fully implement them. Here are some ways you can support healthier school lunches:
The new school lunch standards have the potential to transform the school nutrition environment and improve children's health, and we need everybody’s help to get them fully implemented. Your involvement in supporting healthy eating is so important! Thank you for helping to make the new school menus a success!
- Spread the word to other parents about healthier school lunches. Write a letter to the editor; post a message on Facebook; tweet about them; or forward this message to family, friends, and colleagues.
- Join and spread the word about the upcoming Virtual Back to School Night on Thursday Sept. 13 at 8 p.m., hosted by the National PTA and Pew’s Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project.
- Review the school menu and ask your child what is being served. Ask what they had for lunch, what they liked, how it could be better. Share constructive feedback with the school food service professionals in your child’s school district.
- See the improvements to school lunches firsthand by having lunch with your child.
- Offer to organize a taste test of new recipes and foods at your child’s school.
- Feed your child more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at home so they will be more open to trying them at school.
- Talk to the school food service director in your child’s school about ways you can support their efforts.
- Join your school wellness/health committee (or start one).
- Visit www.schoolfoods.org/back2school for more information, model materials, and other ideas
Margo G. Wootan, D.Sc.
Director, Nutrition Policy
Center for Science in the Public Interest