To the editor:
Children have gone back to school but not back to the same school lunch. This fall, new school meal standards are being implemented. In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. With 31 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program, and one out of every three children in America overweight or obese, it was time for a change. As a result, the nutrition standards for school meals have been updated for the first time in 15 years.
The new meal standards were established to make school lunches more wholesome and nutritious, with double the fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, only fat-free and low-fat milk, limits on unhealthy fats like saturated and trans fats, and less salt. There are new age-based calorie ranges, too, ensuring that children are served the proper portions for their ages.
School districts are eligible to receive a slightly higher reimbursement rate per meal this year but only if their meals meet the new standards. Foods in five categories - fruits, vegetables, grains, meat or meat alternative, and milk - will be offered. Students must take at least three of the five components and must take at least one serving of fruit and vegetable for the school to receive reimbursement. In order to get the improved nutrition benefits of the new menus, children should eat all components of the meal.
Many of our local school districts have been making steady incremental changes toward healthier meals year after year. Your child's school may need some support in implementing these healthy standards. Adults can be a positive role model for students. Parents can help by reinforcing healthy eating at home and encourage children to try new menu options at school. Teachers can try the new menu options and speak supportively about the new meals. School administration can support the program by being involved, and helping ensure the new standards are fully implemented.
We all want healthy children. Building on nutritious choices as youths helps learning and leads to healthy adults. To learn more and to find out how you can help visit www.schoolfoods.org/back2school .
Healthy Schools NY