Good News for the School Lunch Bunch

school lunch

School lunches are not what they used to be. Over the last several years, school cuisine has been evolving to offer healthier and tastier lunchroom fare, and that’s good news for the more than 32 million students who get their lunch at school as well as the 12 million plus who also receive breakfast from that nice lady behind the buffet, according to statistics from the National School Lunch Program.

As a Concorde-trained, practicing health care professional, you’ll have the opportunity to impact the good behaviors and habits of the children and adult patients who you encounter. It’s a good, thing, too, because these facts from the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are sobering:

  • The incidence of obesity among small children and adolescents has nearly tripled since 1980
  • 17%, or 12.5 million, of children between the ages of 2-19 are obese
  • Children who are obese often suffer from low self-esteem and are at a greater risk of psychological problems
  • Obese children are likely to remain obese as adults, with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.

ATTENTION FROM THE WHITE HOUSE

Spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move! crusade to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 launched an ambitious initiative to improve school nutrition programs, in accordance with the latest in nutritional research and the National Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In addition to reauthorizing many existing programs created to provide children from all socioeconomic backgrounds with healthy meals, the act proclaimed the following goals, based on recommended guidelines from the Institute of Medicine:

  • To ensure that school lunches include both fruits and vegetables every day of the school week
  • Increase offerings of whole-grain foods
  • Provide only low-fat or fat-free milk
  • Set guidelines for portion size based on calories recommended for a child’s age
  • Reduce the amounts of trans fats, saturated fats, sugar, and sodium

An innovative part of the program was the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, a volunteer program to match schools with chefs in their local vicinity to partner with school food preparation personnel. The idea is to collaborate on creative ideas to make school meals more appealing and fun to eat.

SALAD BARS NOW IN SCHOOLS

Another popular program is Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools project. Michelle Obama challenged the nation to place 6,000 salad bars in schools, and several organizations have stepped up to the plate to make that a reality, including the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, United Fresh Produce Association Foundation, Food Family Farming Foundation, the Chef Ann Foundation and Whole Foods grocery stores. According to the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools website, to date 4,095 schools have had salad bars installed, and the group has raised more than 10 million dollars.

Additionally, the U.S.D.A. has created Team Nutrition to get kids involved in healthy eating and nutrition, conducting fun workshops, competitions, and activities to educate school kids and reward them for choosing healthy foods.

GET INVOLVED

Schools can participate, too, by joining the HealthierUS School Challenge and become certificated for their efforts at creating a healthier school environment and encouraging exercise and nutrition. Grant money for schools is available at each of four levels of certification, and thousands of schools have participated in the program.

Although it’s a right of passage for students to complain about the types of food being offered in their school cafeterias, as a whole, these programs have been very successful at shining the spotlight on how much the quality of school lunches has been improving recently due to some focused initiatives.

Here’s hoping higher quality nutrition in school lunches translates to healthier dental care. See other tips for keeping your child’s teeth healthy.

– See more at: //www.concorde.edu/blog/school-lunches#sthash.h9GTtsG8.dpuf

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