As we soon close out the 2013 – 2014 school year, we should be celebrating—not rolling back—the great progress that schools have made toward implementing the USDA’s school nutrition standards. Nationwide, we know that over 90% of schools are meeting or exceeding the nutrition standards for school meals established in 2012. This is a significant win for the health of our children and proof that positive change is possible.
The 2012 standards for school lunches required an increase of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; a shift to low-fat or nonfat milk; and limits on calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats. We know that putting these standards into action hasn’t always been easy. But, firsthand, we’ve seen these changes take place in cafeterias across the country. Schools participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program have been exemplary in their efforts to serve healthy meals. In fact, 98% of them reported serving healthy breakfasts in addition to lunch, and 86% reported offering four fruit and vegetable options daily.
These changes were made possible because of the hard work and commitment of school district leaders and school administrators, as well as food service directors and cafeteria managers who have spent the last few years tinkering with menus, gathering student input, and working with vendors to build success with their breakfast and lunch offerings. They’ve done this all while keeping their finances in balance.
You can read about a few schools across the country that found creative and successful ways to provide students with healthier school meal choices. Or cheer along this zany cafeteria manager in Florida who teamed with a PE teacher to overhaul the school lunch menu. And watch a California school that improved school breakfast and lunch programs and now has moved on to afterschool meals.
Our students have been given the option to eat healthier foods, and they are responding by choosing to eat them. It would be a shame to reverse course, to eliminate these choices, to erase our schools’ accomplishments, and to dial back our commitment to improve student health.
Let’s re-affirm our commitment by continuing to offer our nation’s students healthy school food. Together, we can help create a healthier generation.