December 6, 2016

National Survey Finds School Nutrition Standards Are Working

new report from the Kid’s Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a joint initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, revealed that school nutrition programs are experiencing growing success transitioning to healthier meal standards, set by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

The School Meal Approaches, Resources, and Trends (SMART) Study was a nationally representative survey of 489 school nutrition directors that participated in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. The study found that school nutrition directors have employed a range of strategies to encourage students to eat the healthier meals they’re serving and that, despite initial hurdles, many face few to no challenges meeting these standards at this time.

The findings from this survey reinforce what we hear from the thousands of districts that work with the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program every day. Here’s a sample of what they tell us about what works:

  • In Indiana, the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township has shifted to cooking more foods from scratch, such as spaghetti sauce and pizza, to ensure that foods served are healthful and tasty.
  • Food service staff in Georgia’s Savannah-Chatham School District have increased students’ intake of vegetables by incorporating them into popular entrees and side dishes, such as turkey pot pie and buffalo-style cauliflower, and adding salad bars.
  • And in Maine’s Windham Raymond School District, staff are focused on nutrition education to ensure that students understand WHY it’s important for them to eat healthier, which increases the likelihood that they’ll be willing to try new foods.

The report, released today, found that most nutrition programs used a variety of strategies like these to encourage students to eat the healthier meals. And it’s working!

In fact, 84 percent of program directors reported that their nutrition programs’ revenue was rising or stable in the past year, and more than half of districts saw higher combined revenue in school year 2014-15 compared with a year earlier.

Higher revenue means more kids are purchasing and eating healthy school meals. Now that’s something we all can celebrate!