Childhood obesity is a national epidemic that requires bold solutions. Nearly 1 in 3 children is at risk for preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes, once known as “adult onset” diabetes, and heart disease due to overweight and obesity. If the trend continues, the current generation of children may have a shorter lifespan than their parents. New standards for school meals by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that are being implemented this school year will help ensure healthy nutritious food served to every public school student in an effort to bolster their health and academic success. The new school meals are intended to be high in nutrients and adequate in calories consistent with the latest nutrition science.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the new requirements will raise standards for the first time in more than 15 years and improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids who participate in school meal programs every school day.
Based on their age, students are getting the recommended portions. In addition to lower-fat and leaner proteins, the new school meals offer more fruits and vegetables at lunch—roughly double compared to the standards.
Proper portion sizes and servings of fat-free or low-fat milk varieties are also included in the meal requirements, which are a key component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
“The National Education Association believes when it comes to the health of America’s youth, it’s best to think of exercise and nutrition as different sides of the same coin,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Students need both to perform well in school and develop healthy lifestyles that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
“Educators are encouraged to educate students about the new standards. We can creatively engage and educate students to increase acceptance. To encourage students to consume foods which they may not be accustomed, schools may employ multiple strategies, including taste tests before introducing new foods on the menu, creative marketing/presentation of foods, and offering multiple choices within food components,” Van Roekel said.
For more information, visit The School Day Just Got Healthier.
Here’s what Roselyn Green has to say about her work as a cafeteria bookeeper in the Florence South Carolina public schools and the need for addressing healthy meals in schools.