A New School Lunch
This guest blog is brought to you by Christy Vanderwende Wright. Christy grew up on her family farm, commonly known as “Little Wagon Produce” in Sussex County, Delaware and was active in 4-H and FFA. After graduating with an agricultural degree from the University of Delaware in 1997, she taught agriscience at the high school level. Currenly she is a program and policy analyst at Nemours Health and Prevention Services. She serves on many community boards and is a volunteer for CommonGround. To read more about Christy, visit her blog “Farmer Dan’s Daughter” or follow her on Twitter at @LilWagonChristy. She can also be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you heard about any changes to your child’s school lunch? I have and I don’t even have kids. My niece’s have filled me in and they aren’t happy. One says she’s still starving after eating her lunch. The other one says she would rather pack her lunch now. My sister, who is a teacher in Lake Forest School District, even comments about how terrible the lunches are this year.
The changes are a result of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. For the first time in over 20 years, the USDA is implementing significant changes to the nutrition standards of National School Lunches and the School Breakfast Programs. Like it or not, this is mandatory for public schools across the country. What are some of the new requirements for 2012? Here are a few:
- Offer fruit daily (lunch)
- Offer vegetable subgroups weekly (lunch)
- Half of grains must be whole grain-rich (lunch and breakfast)
- Offer only fat-free and low-fat unflavored milk (lunch and breakfast)
- Calorie counting (see a recent article from the News Journal here)
There are more to be phased in over a 3 year timeline such as sodium servings; however, most changes for school lunch happened this year.
But wait, there’s more! There are MANY optional movements targeting a new and improved school lunch and October was a popular month for their celebration. For example, October was National Farm to School Month. Delaware has been a part of this movement, and recently unveiled a new website for the program. School districts such as Colonial, Seaford, Smyrna, and Woodbridge embraced the idea of Farm to School early on and are dedicated to the movement. Recently WBOC and the Cape Gazette featured Smyrna School District for their revamping of school lunch by incorporating Farm to School. Farm to School allows cafeterias to offer fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers, while still implementing the new nutrition standards. It’s a win, win situation for schools and local farmers!
The National School Lunch Week (NSLW) is another celebration which was held October 15-19. Did your school district plan something special to celebrate? Seaford School District is a good example. With a “School Lunch: What’s Cooking” theme, students toured the kitchen facilities during the week-long celebration. I read this in a recent Sussex County Post article and just last year, I blogged about Seaford achieving silver level status from the Healthier U.S. School Challenge Award.
So, what do I say to my nieces and my sister? Well, I know their district has not embraced the Farm to School movement. I think this would help make some of the fruits and veggies they serve more appealing to students. One way to entice students to eat healthy food is to use creative marketing when it comes to menu writing and educational curriculum. Perhaps a way to approach the issue is to start asking questions of the cafeteria manager, nutrition supervisor, or superintendent of the district. Questions to ask could be:
- What resources or equipment do our cafeterias need to serve a better tasting school lunch, especially with the new nutrition standards?
- What did our district do to promote National School Lunch Week?
- Does our district participate in Farm to School? If not, why?
Perhaps you could even send your superintendent or PTA leaders the articles or videos featured in this blog. Show them that a healthy school lunch doesn’t have to taste bad!