What does it mean for your kids and their school meals program?
by Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD
You probably saw in the news that last month (December) that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was signed into law. It had been 10 years since the government reauthorized child nutrition programs — and with childhood obesity on the rise many were fighting for real change.
So what does this all mean to you, your child and your school nutrition department?
The new bill incorporates many positive changes with its $4.5 billion of additional funding for child nutrition programs over the next 10 years. But how does this bill translate into the daily lives of children? Here are the highlights…
- Better food choices all around: The USDA already sets nutrition standards for school lunches, but now they’ll have the authority to set standards for “other food” sold at school including vending machines, a la carte items and school stores. For the most part, school nutrition departments have been working on this for some time, long before it became a popular political concern. Sodas, candy, etc., have been long gone. In some districts, this may take a while to put in place, but the result will be more nutritious food available outside of school lunches. School nutrition departments are constantly working to improve the quality of the food they serve.
- More money for lunches: For the first time in 30 years, there will be more money going to school lunches that meet new nutrition standards. There will also be more auditing to ensure school districts are complying with the standards. When broken down by each lunch served, the actual increase to the schools is miniscule. It still amazes me that the school nutrition professionals are able to provide a healthy lunch for the price they charge.
- More local food: More funding will go to farm-to-school programs aiming to get more local food into schools.
- More children will qualify: More children will have access to school meal programs due to changes in eligibility and processing.
- New school wellness programs: The new law recommends more emphasis on nutrition promotion, education and physical activity. By participating in the SchoolMenu.com program, your district is showing leadership in meeting this requirement.
- Safer Food: New requirements will help improve the safety of food at schools.
I know many proponents of this bill wanted even more resources to go to school nutrition programs, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. This, combined with the creative ideas of your school nutrition professionals, means a healthier future for our kids.