by Undersecretary Kevin Concannon
As students head back to school this fall, they will find healthier and more nutritious school meals that offer both fruits and vegetables every day; substantially more whole grain-rich foods; only fat-free or low-fat milk; calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and increased focus on reducing sodium.
As Under Secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, I am excited that the school day is now healthier for America’s young people. Schools have always played a central role in the lives of our children – and not just in the classroom.
Many students eat two meals a day at school, making the quality of these meals all the more important. It’s vital that we provide our youngsters with healthy food choices that enable them to learn, grow, and thrive.
New federal standards, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move! initiative, align school meals with the latest nutrition science consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
To make these changes successful, parents, school staff, and members of the community need to get involved in inspiring and encouraging students to eat healthy both at school and at home. Eat lunch with your children at school, review the school menus with your children, try new foods at home that are on the school menu, and convey the importance of healthy eating to children.
Schools will phase in the nutrition standards over a three-year period, starting in school year 2012-2013. Schools will focus on changes in the lunches in the first year, with most changes in breakfast to take place in future years.
The new meal requirements mark the first major changes in school meals in more than a decade and will help raise a healthier generation of kids. In short, these new measures do what’s right for the health of our children, and do it in a responsible way that is achievable even in the real-world circumstances of America’s schools.
In addition to the new meal standards, other resources give schools the opportunity to meet the challenge of providing healthier meals, including:
- Increased funding for schools – the first real increase in 30 years – tied to strong performance in serving improved meals.
- Training and technical assistance to help schools achieve and monitor compliance.
improvements in school nutrition add up to a substantial investment in
the future of our children – and our nation. As President Obama has
said: “…if we want to win the future…then we also have to win the race
to educate our kids.”
No child should have to learn on an empty stomach. All children should be fueled by the healthiest, most nutritious food we can provide.
So, as kids head back to the classroom, remember: The school day just got healthier. For ideas and resources for getting involved, go to www.fns.usda.gov/healthierschoolday.