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Thursday, September 1, 2016

A New Look at School Lunches

By Mary Schroeder, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

Have you eaten a school lunch lately? Most adults have not eaten school meals since, well...since they were in school.

Meals served in schools today include a larger variety of fruits, vegetables, and entrées than when most of us were kids. Many schools also provide fruit and salad bars bars to encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables.

School lunches have several benefits. Here are four things they do:
  • Provide nutritionally balanced meals. Today's school lunches meet one-third of most children's daily nutritional needs.
  • Help kids learn where foods come from. Farm to school programs are in 42 percent of schools, thereby increasing kids' access to locally produced foods and learning activities such as farmers' visits and school gardening.
  • Support learning at school. Research shows that kids with healthier eating patterns perform better in school.
  • Save time. If you spend 10 minutes a day packing lunch for a child, that adds up to 30 hours (1,800 minutes) each school year. 
If your child is just starting school or is new to eating school meals, here are a few tips:
  • Try new foods at home. Kids need many opportunities to taste a new food to “get used to it.”
  • Talk with your child about what's on the menu. Make sure he or she knows about all the foods that will be served at school.
  • Eat lunch at school with your child. Learn more about what's offered and meet school nutrition staff.
If you have questions about your child's school meals, talk to your school's foodservice director. If you want to learn more about school meals in general, read this article from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: The School Day Just Got Healthier.


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