Do you remember the school lunches when you were a kid? How about at your children’s school? Do chicken nuggets, greasy pizza and hot dogs sound familiar? That will not be the case this school year! The USDA has given school cafeterias a makeover with their Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was created to improve the health and nutrition of 32 million school children nationwide. The goal is to provide meals that follow the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans and in turn, improve the health and performance of children.
Here’s what’s happening now:
During breakfast, at least one serving of fruit must be given with the meal. Lunch has also gotten a colorful makeover. Research has found that only 10% of children consume red-orange or dark green vegetables on a daily basis. In an effort to change these statistics, school lunches will now serve a variety of these vegetables along with a fresh dose of fruit.
What foods do you associate with vending machines? Are they chips, candy, cookies, sodas and juices? Thankfully, this has changed too. Vending machines have been stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, salads, sandwiches, 1% and fat free milk.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Prevention is key if we want to see change and keep our children’s hearts healthy. Therefore, saturated fat will be kept at no more than 10% of calories and trans fat will be at zero grams per serving. In order to meet this goal, only 1% and fat free milk will be provided and foods lower in saturated fat including skinless poultry, heart smart vegetables oils and lean meats will be implemented.
Did you know that about 60% of a child’s maximum daily allowance of sodium could be provided during a school lunch alone? Slowly but surely school lunches will be reduced by 25-50% of sodium. Sodium amounts will continue to be reduced over the next decade.
It is difficult to pay attention in class when you are low in energy and are sleepy. Whole grains promote fullness and energy while providing vitamins and minerals. For now, half of all grains provided will be whole but in two years only whole grains will be offered.
It is great that healthier options are already in place for this school year. It will be interesting to find out the outcomes of these changes and see if children start to develop new healthy habits outside of school.
What are your feelings on the USDA’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act? Are you seeing these changes in the schools in your district?