According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 97 percent of American schools report that they currently meet the school meal standards. The current standards promote whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein, and recommend less sugar and salt.
Schools across the country are finding creative, sustainable, and affordable ways to provide healthier meals for students.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) was passed in 2010, but it was phased in over several years, finally going completely into effect in 2014. The program helps to fund healthy meals for students in low income areas for the next five years.
Updated Nutrition Standards
As part of the HHFKA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated the school meal standards. They went into effect in 2012, and by 2015, most schools report compliance. The new standards require cafeterias to offer healthier options, like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting salt and sugar.
Vending Machine Regulations
In addition to school meals, the HHFKA also led to healthier snack options for students. That means a lot of schools switched from soda to water and from candy bars to snack mixes and other healthy options.
Team Nutrition is a USDA program that offers help to schools through Team Nutrition Training Grants, training, resources, and nutrition education lessons. In 2015, the Wisconsin Team Nutrition used their funding to create a contest for middle school and high school students. The healthy cooking competition is a way to get students interested in healthy meals and teach them how to make their own healthy meals.
Sustainability and Farm to School
Sustainability is another major movement of 2015, and when combined with schools, can be an opportunity for education, affordable food and a nutrition boost. In an effort to offer students healthier meal options, some schools across the nation have started their own vegetable gardens, cared for by students. All vegetables can be used in school lunches, providing a cost-effective and healthy alternative to processed meals.
Fuel Up to Play 60
Another USDA project, Fuel up to Play 60 combines exercise with healthy eating by promoting nutrition in school as a way to fuel the body. The goal is to encourage a healthier lifestyle, not just healthy meals.