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School nutrition- new report tells government school meals need to be healthier

Posted on Dec 09, 2009 by Maggie LaBarbera

The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program affect the nutrition of millions of children across America by providing low cost or free lunches during school time. You might be surprised to know that in 2007, these national programs provided lunch to more than 30.5 million children and breakfast to 10.1 million children.

There has been a lot of discussion, debate and controversy over the nutrition of those meals. The school meals currently are required to meet the guidelines set in 1995. That is almost 15 years old!

The Institute of Medicine convened a committee to provide recommendations to revise standards and requirements so that school meals are more healthful.

In its 2009 report School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children, the committee made the following recommendations to the USDA which included:

  • Increasing the amount and variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Setting a minimum and maximum level of calories
  • Focusing more on reducing saturated fat and sodium
Here is a comparison of the current requirements and the recommendations:


This is so important because you can see how many kids rely on these meals as one or two of the main meals for the day.

Click here to read the full school nutrition report.

What do you think about school nutrition and the new study? Share your opinion by leaving a comment about school nutrition policy and your ideas for healthier school food for kids!

If you make your own lunches at home, here are some resources from our website to help you pack a healthy lunch for school:

Healthy lunch ideas pdf

Helping your child to choose healthier cafeteria foods

Healthy lunch box notes for kids! Fun printable eating healthy reminders!

healthy eating school nutrition lunch box kids note cards




Wednesday, Dec 09, 2009 @ 10:50 AM

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I loved your article – it was some great information
Dora Rivas, RD, SNS
Thursday, Dec 10, 2009 @ 10:55 AM

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As president of the School Nutrition Association, I have seen school nutrition programs nationwide show tremendous creativity and innovation in developing healthy, enticing school meals. Many schools are finding success with student taste tests, recipe contests, ethnic menu choices, school gardens or farm to school programs. Others are reformulating old favorites to make them more nutritious, like pizza prepared with whole grain crusts, low-sodium sauce and low-fat cheese. The Institute of Medicine’s recommendations offer schools critical guidance for ongoing efforts to enhance the nutrition of school meals, but schools face enormous challenges in implementing them. School nutrition programs have strict budgets, limited resources and in some cases antiquated equipment to fulfill their needs. The national average cost to prepare a school lunch is $2.92, but the federal reimbursement for each free lunch served is only $2.68. As Congress reauthorizes the Child Nutrition Act this Spring, legislators must push for a greater federal investment in school meals so students can enjoy an even wider variety of healthy foods. Dora Rivas, RD, SNS – SNA President

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