This week we celebrate the nutrition program that feeds more than thirty million children each day – School Lunch. School Lunch dates back to 1946 when President Truman signed it into law as a way to safeguard the health of the nation’s children.
School lunches have seen big changes this year with the enactment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This year there are more whole grains, fruits and vegetables on the menus. School milk served with the meals is now lowfat and fat free white milk and fat free chocolate milk.
I’ve worked on some educational projects with milk processors and learned that over the past several years they’ve lowered the calories and sugar in school flavored milk, giving kids the taste they love while still maintaining all of milk’s nine essential nutrients. In fact, the average calories in school flavored milk have declined by more than 21 percent over the past five years and sugars have been cut dramatically by 40 percent.
Overall, kids’ milk intake is far below the current recommendations, and school milk consumption has declined for the third consecutive year, declining by more than 1 percent in just the last year alone. Giving kids more nutrient-rich choices, like offering the flavored milk they love, could help address this. In fact, research suggests “choice” helps boost kids’ overall intake of nutritious foods, and flavored milk is a nutrient-rich choice.
The increase in whole grains, fruits and vegetables has been met with some discussion about “not enough food” but in fact the calorie allocations for each meal, which vary by age of the students, are right on target for meeting nutritional and calorie needs of children who enjoy school lunch.
Shifting the food group balance to include more whole grains, fruits and vegetables helps boost vitamin and mineral intake and the options in types of milk, makes it easier for children to consume some of the vitamins and minerals they often miss.
School lunch provides the mid-day nutrition that children need to spend an afternoon of learning. Evidence shows that children who are well nourished have an easier time paying attention and consequently learn more.
If you haven’t yet seen the “new look” of School Lunch, this week might be a good time to visit your children’s school or a school in your neighborhood to learn more. And while you are there, thank those who work to ensure children get a good mid-day meal.
Additional information is also available at MilkatSchools.com.