Are school lunch programs really getting healthier? Is First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program already starting to move the needle (downward on the weight scales)?
If the results of a new School Nutrition Association survey of 538 school districts across the nation are any indication, things are at least moving in the right direction.
More whole grains and veggies. Less sodium and sugar.
According to the responding school districtsâ€”
â‹… 95 percent are increasing whole-grain offerings
â‹… 90 percent are providing more fresh fruits and vegetables
â‹… 69 percent are reducing or eliminating sodium
â‹… 66 percent are reducing added sugar
â‹… 51 percent are increasing vegetarian options
â‹… 67 percent of those with vending services are making healthier drinks more available
Class, can you say “jicama”?
Some of the new menu items being offered for the 2010-2011 school year include some foods that most kids probably don’t know how to pronounce, such as jicama, and edamame. Other newcomers mentioned: star fruit, sweet potato puffs, collard greens, egg-white omelets, and fish tacos.
As Congress debates Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation which would establish national nutrition standards for competitive foods, the SNA report finds that many school districts are already adopting healthier a la carte and vending policies.
- 63% of districts with a la carte services are implementing nutrition standards
- 65% are limiting the size and/or weight of their a la carte food and beverage offerings.
- 67% of districts with vending services are increasing the availability of healthier beverages in vending machines.
Budgets are still tight
These school nutrition successes are particularly impressive in light of the significant financial constraints on school meal programs. The survey found that:
- 78.6% of districts expect food costs to increase in the coming school year.
- 65% anticipate that the federal reimbursement for free and reduced price meals served under the National School Lunch Program will fail to cover the cost of producing the meals.
- Meanwhile, more students are relying on the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, with 83.5% of districts reporting increases in the number of free and reduced price participation in the 2009/2010 school year.
â€˜School nutrition professionals are constantly working to improve school meals by offering more nutritious food choices, adopting healthier food preparation techniques and incorporating nutrition education into the cafeteria,â€™ said new SNA President Nancy Rice. â€˜But school nutrition programs need the support of parents, as well as Congress, to build on this success.â€™
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