By Jessica Donze Black, director, Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project
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Kids consume up to 50 percent of their daily calories at school, so access to healthy meals and snacks is important to their overall health. This is especially true for the 21.5 million students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals and rely on food served in school to meet their nutritional needs.
The past few years have brought exciting improvements to the school food environment nationwide, and there will be major opportunities to build on this progress in 2014. One of the great recent achievements is that the vast majority of schools (86 percent) are serving healthy lunches that meet nutrition standards. This means that in most schools, students are receiving more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with their meals.
In addition, schools this fall will implement “Smart Snacks” standards for foods and beverages sold outside the school meal programs. These guidelines will ensure that snacks in vending machines, school stores, a la carte lines, and snack bars are healthy. Nutritious snacks in schools not only are good for students’ diets; research shows they also can increase food service revenue.
Nutrition standards are important, but schools also need the resources to implement them. A series of reports by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project finds that updates to school kitchens could help districts serve nutritious and appealing meals in more cost-effective ways. Recently, the federal government has taken steps to ensure that schools have the tools needed to better serve healthy foods:
- In early January, Congress passed a budget for fiscal year 2014 that includes $25 million for schools to purchase kitchen equipment.
- In December, USDA announced the distribution of funds that Congress appropriated for school food service equipment in the fiscal 2013 budget.
- The bipartisan School Food Modernization Act would establish a loan and grant assistance program within USDA to help pay for upgrades to school kitchens and dining areas, new equipment, and training and technical assistance for school food service personnel.
This year, let’s continue to create a healthy environment for children. We should encourage schools to offer only nutritious options to students and to work with the community to ensure that their kitchens are well-equipped to do so. Follow me on Twitter (@JDonzeBlack_Pew) for the latest updates and information on how you can get involved.
- Date added:
- Jan 28, 2014
March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus new energy on giving kids healthy food options throughout the school day. Students consume up to half of their daily calories in school, so access to wholesome meals and snacks is important to their overall health. In fact, research shows that students living in states with strong nutrition laws gain less weight than those in states without such policies.More info
Jessica Donze Black, director for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, calls the modification change a “pragmatic and scientifically sound decision,” and San Francisco-based school food reformer Dana Woldow agrees: “[The calorie caps] will automatically limit the amount of potentially fatty protein and grains going into the meals. I think the days of seeing giant cheeseburgers the size of your head in school cafeterias may be over.”More info
It was food delivery day at Glen Landing Middle School in Blackwood, New Jersey, and the 42-year-old walk-in freezer went kaput. Again.More info
infrastructure. More info
This is the second in a series of reports that summarizes how schools are putting in place updated U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, meal standards and the challenges they must overcome to reach full implementation.More info
Schools would be better able to serve healthy, appealing meals if investments were made in new kitchen equipment and infrastructure.More info
Only 1 in 10 school districts nationwide (12 percent) has all the kitchen equipment needed to serve healthy foods, according to a new report issued by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. The report makes recommendations for how schools, policymakers, industry, and philanthropic partners can work together to make these investments and provide healthy, appealing foods more efficiently. It is the first national assessment of districts’ kitchen equipment and infrastructure needs.More info
"In other words, children will be able to buy only foods that their parents would find generally acceptable,' says Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a non-profit, nonpartisan group helping to improve school foods for our kids. If your school participates in the National School Lunch Program (most public schools in the country do), they must adhere to these new snack regulations by the start of the 2014 school year.More info