It’s a fact. Many children in the U.S., from ages 5 to 18, spend the majority of their day in schools. And many children get nearly half their daily intake of food in a school environment, thanks to the long-standing, federally subsidized National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Programs, which have been around for decades and make available free or low-cost meals for millions of children.
Since 2012, thanks to a series of upgrades to school meal nutrition standards developed by the USDA, many school children have begun to see healthier food options appear on their school breakfast and lunch plates. Nutrient dense whole wheat grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats and proteins are now part and parcel of the offerings that kids can have access to when they participate in school meal programs.
Even as some schools and school systems are still working to fully implement these upgrades, progress is being made in creating long-needed improvements to school meals. Tater tots are being replaced by broccoli and carrots. And the humble apple and glass of water are finding their way back into young tummies.
At a time when one in three children are overweight or obese, the simple truth is that healthy and nutritious school meals are crucial to promoting overall health for this next generation.
Recently, controversy has arisen in Congress over proposed changes to federal nutrition programs, changes that could affect some of the original gains in good nutrition. In light of this discussion around school lunch, Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools wants to celebrate the successes that have been made in advancing good nutrition in schools and school districts all across the country.
According to the USDA, over 90 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards dictated by The Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act school meal provision. A separate study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation revealed how more than half of states have advanced the “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards.
And kids are eating more healthy foods as a result.
Throughout the month of June, on our blog, we’ll be lifting up stories of these happy successes. So stay tuned for more on the power of healthy school lunches and breakfasts to power young brains and young bodies.
And to get us started, here’s a little something to help us all visualize success: