There is a lot of discussion out there about school nutrition – and we couldn’t be happier about that! Students consume 35% - 50% of their daily caloric intake at school where they are often exposed to junk foods and sugar-sweetened beverages that have little to no nutritional value. Parents – and students – have concerns about the nutritional value of the foods their kids are consuming at school. Schools are in a unique position to provide a healthy environment by promoting and providing nutritious meals.
CLICK HERE for an informational video about school nutrition.
Here is what we know: In December 2010, the President signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to update national nutrition standards for school meals and establish nutrition standards for other foods sold in schools throughout the school day. As a result, in school year 2013-2014, nearly 90% of schools in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) met nutritional standards, up from 14% in 2009-2010. That means an overwhelming majority of children are receiving heart-healthy lunches while at school.
We also know that a healthy school environment, including healthy nutrition, helps improve children’s physical well-being, enhances learning, minimizes behavior problems and increases attendance.
The evidence is overwhelming that the new school meal standards are working. Going into child nutrition reauthorization for 2015, the American Heart Association advocates for:
- Continued support to schools for effective implementation of the federal nutrition standards for school meals.
- Continued strong implementation of Smart Snacks in School standards. These standards include reducing sodium; eliminating trans fat; decreasing saturated far; minimizing fried foods; offering healthy beverage options; and increasing the offering of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, and low-fat dairy.
- Continued robust technical assistance by the USDA to support schools in implementing nutrition standards, effective nutrition education, and nutrition promotion and model local wellness policies with effective implementation and evaluation.
- Investments in kitchen equipment and infrastructure that can help schools serve healthier meals.