The School Nutrition Guidelines

Hey everyone! It’s been awhile since the last blog I wrote. I hope you’re all enjoying summer so far. I know I have.

Today I want to take this opportunity to talk about the National School Lunch Program’s newest guidelines under the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. With school about to begin again in a month this is the perfect time to get yourself and your kids acquainted with the school lunch standards!

For those of you that are already a part of a school community that is participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) you might already be aware of the changes that are taking place on your kids’ trays. For those who are new, keep reading and don’t stress.

In 2010 the First Lady helped to initiate the Healthy, Hunger Kids Free Act which become the basis for policies governing the NSLP as well as other school nutrition programs.

Since this has passed the standards/guidelines for school lunches have tightened. Managers of food services are required to re-vamp menus of students K-12. Suddenly, french fries have become baked potato sticks; frozen foods have been replaced with scratch cooking; and sugary drinks have been replaced with water. 

All these changes can be overwhelming for any parent let alone their kids! So why has this happened?

The Purpose

Well, the main goal of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act is to foster an environment for kids that would help them develop good food habits, balance those habits with exercise, and experiment with new foods.

The secondary goal is to make sure no kid goes hungry. (There has been a good amount of research that connects learning and behavior in school to eating regular, nutritious meals.)

The Guidelines

These guidelines are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans of 2010. Put concisely these guidelines try to:

1.) Increase fruits/veggies and whole grains

2.) Increase fluid/exercise while decreasing sugary drinks and high sodium foods

3.) Balance food intake with exercise

Thus, the new foods being introduced on your kids’ plates.

Wait, there’s More

Two years later in June 2012 these standards were changed to cut sodium and sugar even more drastically. This was due to the fact that these new standards would be implemented gradually over a period of four or five years.

Now we have come to the fifth year. It’s time to review these standards as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and the Dietary Guidelines expire this fall.

What Can We Do?

As school food managers reviews the pros and cons of the new standards in hopes of reauthorizing these programs for another five years there are a few things we can do to prepare.

1.)Take time to talk to your kids about these guidelines over family dinner night. Make sure they understand why these changes are taking place.

2.) Research these guidelines by following the links I’ve provided below.

3.) Get involved! Volunteer at your child’s school cafeteria or eat lunch with them.

4.) Be patient with school managers as we are all getting used to these standards.

5.) Review menu with kids each evening to see what they want to eat. Encourage them to try new foods.

6.) Act as your child’s role model to healthful eating habits. (Look back at some of my previous posts for ideas on how to model good eating habits).

Resources

http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/healthy-hunger-free-kids-act

http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2010.asp

https://schoolnutrition.org/AboutSchoolMeals/SchoolNutritionStandards/

https://schoolnutrition.org/AboutSchoolMeals/Parents/

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