Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Healthier School Lunches

Welcome Back-To-School and to a new year with your County Council of PTAs.  As you may have noticed, school lunches have a whole new look this year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) updated nutrition standards for school meals. Changes to school lunches went into affect beginning with the 2012-2013 school year.  As parents, it can be difficult to navigate what these changes mean and how you can support your kids and your school in making healthy choices.  You have probably heard the facts before: Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in the United States have tripled. Today, more than 23 million children and teens are overweight or obese, which places them at an increased risk for serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke. Ensuring that school meals are healthy and in line with current nutrition science is important for kids’ health as well as for academics.

PTA has been closely involved with federal health policy since its inception.  Most recently, PTA members successfully advocated for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that passed Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 13, 2010. A major provision of the bill is what has prompted the changes we are seeing in school lunches this year.  The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 directed USDA to update the NSLP’s meal pattern and nutrition standards based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

The new meal pattern increases the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the school menu as well as a shift to low-fat or nonfat milk and limits on sodium and unhealthy fats. New dietary specifications also set specific calorie limits to ensure age-appropriate meals for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. While school lunches must meet Federal meal requirements, decisions about what specific foods to serve and how they are prepared are made by local school food authorities.

So you are probably wondering what the changes are and how this has affected one of your students' favorite times of day; lunch time.  Here is a comprehensive and easy to understand comparison of what lunch requirements were prior to this year:  

We have received positive feedback regarding the new meal standards and students across the County seem to be adapting to them well.  The nutritional integrity of school meals has always been a priority to CCPS and the school system is meeting and exceeding the challenges set forth in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. 

If you have questions about the new standards or any other matters pertaining to school nutrition, please contact the CCPS School Nutritionist office at (804) 743-3728.  Additional information can also be found on the CCPS website by visiting the Food and Nutrition Services page.

Have a safe and healthy school year!

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