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Schools Putting Healthier Lunch Options into Action

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As you know, earlier this year First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the new National School Lunch Program nutrition standards. Since more students eat school lunch compared to school breakfast, schools first started to implement the new standards with school lunches.
Perhaps your family has incorporated tips that help you pack a nutrient-rich lunch for your children to take to school. Hopefully you have found a month worth of fun and healthy lunch ideas your children enjoy to help take the hassle out of packing school lunches. However, if you have a teenager like mine who doesn't want anything to do with packed lunches anymore, selecting a school lunch may be part of his or her daily routine.
It seems many school districts did major overhauls of their school lunch menu offerings over the summer to improve the nutritional quality offered to students this school year. I know there are many new changes in our son's school. Here is a sample of the types of new school lunch offerings popping up in school districts around the country.

The Hillsborough County Public School District in Tampa, Florida, is serving familiar "home-cooked" entrees in addition to new vegetarian options. The district's Student Nutrition Services department has incorporated a weekly sampling program to introduce students to new fresh fruit and vegetable recipes. Additionally, wider varieties of vegetables are offered through use of locally sourced seasonal produce. Student lunch prices are $2.25 for elementary students and $2.75 for middle and high school students.
Knox County Schools in Tennessee will be offering whole-grain biscuits and pizza crusts this year as well as sneaking some sweet potato puree into their tomato sauce to extend the nutrition. The School Nutrition and Food Services staff is not only offering a variety of fruits and vegetables, they are making sure students take the required servings at check out time as well. Since they are providing 100 percent juices, those can be selected as a fruit serving too. Student prices for lunch in this district this year are $2.50 for K-5 students and $2.75 for students in grades 6-12.
Seattle Public Schools in Washington are excited to be offering hormone-free, 1 percent unflavored milk and fat-free flavored milk as well as water and 100 percent fruit/vegetable juices as their healthy drink options. Since it is now required that students take a fruit or vegetable for lunches to count as a full meal, they will be keeping fresh options front and center. The district’s Nutrition Services department has created a terrific video to help families understand the new guidelines as well as the nutrition education reasoning behind them. Families can also find readily available education resource links to help their students learn to love new options like a whole grain bean and cheese burrito or a veggie burger on a whole grain bun. Elementary students will pay $2.75 for lunch with middle and high school students paying $3.00 per lunch. 

As outlined in the National School Lunch Program, "Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reducedĀ]price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents. (For the period July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, 130 percent of the poverty level is $29,965 for a family of four; 185 percent is $42,643.)"

What do you think about these new changes and there nutritional benefits? Do you believe this will help students improve their BMI by the end of the school year? Tell us about some of the healthy changes you are seeing at your child's school.

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These days in the USA, too many of our children do not even have a home (permanent place where their family lives). It's called homelessness. I am encouraged that more of us do care - again - what our children, grandchildren, and friends' children and grands - are encouraged and allowed to eat during the school day. Many of us know the difference, that's part of the point of being on SparkPeople. Of course children need to have snacks in addition to solidly nutritional meal items (AND healthy snacks), but we need to get the "food-at-school" priorities UN-twisted. Our children deserve the best that we (really) can offer them. Not just junk and the cheapest possible leftovers. : ) Report
I've been reading about this. It hasn't worked so well. The kids are throwing out the food, and other kids, like athletes aren't getting enough calories to satisfy them. Kids are going hungry because of these guidelines.

Although I am not advocating serving Twinkies, chips and soda; I think the schools should be able to provide something that the kids will eat. Ultimately, it falls upon the parents to teach the kids to eat healthy or they will just keep throwing the good food out.

If school lunches are making kids go hungry because they won't eat what is being served or enough of it, how are they going to sit in a classroom and study. Doesn't that defy the purpose anyways? Report
I haven't heard anything good about the new school lunch menus. It's just government getting in our business again. I just read where someone was fined for not having Ritz crackers.
I live in Puerto Rico and the meal is free for all students and changed for healthier food. Report
The Sharing Table Is A GREAT Idea For Schools To Utilize! I Do Think The Idea Of MAKING Children Take A Fruit Or Vegetable Is Something I Don't Agree With. What They Need To Do Is "Hide" Vegetable Servings In Foods Like Healthier Lasagna, Turkey Chili Or A Healthy Fruit Parfait For Dessert. Just A Thought. They Need Some of Chef Meg's Do Over Recipes! Thanks For The Blog! Report
All that my daughters can talk about when it comes to purchasing "snack" at school is that if we send a dollar, they can get an individual sized Blue Bell ice cream carton. I also know that Icees, cookies, and chips are served as well. My kids have given up buying any food at school and prefer to take their own lunches and snacks from home. Report
I have no children or grandchildren in school, but I know several people who work in the school and parents have told me that the children are going home very hungry and that food is being wasted. Older children are leaving school to get fast food. I have asked about the program and most of the comments I've heard is that it is not working well, at least in our school. I have also seen that phys ed classes are being cut or shortened in many schools due to budget restraints, which would seem to counteract attempts at healthier eating. After all, it's not food alone that makes children obese - lack of activity is definitely a problem as well. Report
I like the idea of the sharing table. I've seen way too much food just thrown in the trash because a child has to take something they won't eat. Report
I'm so glad they're doing this now. I had a very warped sense of what was healthy and unhealthy when I was in school because the healthiest thing they offered was canned fruit in syrup. To drink, we had to choose between whole fat milk, chocolate milk and fruit punch. I always chose the regular milk because the chocolate milk and fruit punch were so sweet they made me feel gross. I hope these school lunch makeovers keep spreading to other cities. Report
If they don't educate as well as insist on kids taking the fruits/veggies, I hope those school systems have an up-and-active compost program in place. Too many children I know are almost totally unacquainted with fruits/veg in anything like a natural form. Report
I live in Ashland KY, and in my district (Ashland Independent) I know that Crabbe is offering some healthier choices, but there are still a lot of unhealthy foods offered. Not sure what is going on at the middle school (Verity) or other elementry schools but I do know that at Paul Blazer high school the students were told eating healthy is to expensive, so instead they cut the portion size, so they eat poor choices and come home hungry! What a great job being done here! NOT!!! Report
What a great idea is the sharing table!!!!! I am going to ask about starting one at my grandson's school - Thanks!!! Report
At my school children are REQUIRED to take a fruit or a veggie...the first few days this food was going straight into the garbage. :( We now have a Sharing Table. If you have fruit or veggies from the school cafe and you don't want it, you put it on the Sharing Table. (you can't put food there from your home, it is against the health code). Then if you are any child in the cafe, whether you buy lunch or pack it and you would like something on the sharing table - you simple walk up and get it. The table is empty at the end of every day! Yay! Report
I'm glad schools are being forced to offer healthy options. My daughter was very disappointed when our middle school stopped offering baked potatoes (there was a toppings bar). When she got to high school, she could get a salad, but only if she was one of the first 25 kids wanting a salad. They should have options. Report
This is certainly a step in the right direction but it also needs to be carried out at home at least school won't be making it worse! Report
I am glad that the schools are working on this since my kids are among the many that eat school lunch; however, my children's health is largely dependent on what I feed them at home, not what they are eating at school. They struggle with their weight because I don't encourage play/exercise more, and because I allow them to eat too much at home. The schools can only do so much for our children. As parents, we have to take responsibility for the health and well-being of our children. Report
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