School Nutrition Champions Working in the Name of Student Health
You’ve likely seen some recent media headlines regarding USDA’s school meal and snack regulations: “Too hard! Too expensive! Kids don’t like fruits and vegetables!”
But last week, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Pew Charitable Trusts welcomed to Washington, D.C., more than 50 district and school leaders, educators, parents, students and food service professionals who had a very different headline. Our school champions, from rural Appalachia to urban Los Angeles, landed on Capitol Hill to tell Congress the other side of the story.
These champions believe that nutritious choices should be available throughout the school building to support student learning. They believe that healthy change—while hard at first, as is with any change—is necessary, doable, financially sound, and it’s had a positive effect on their schools and districts. In fact, more than 90 percent of schools across the country are meeting federal nutrition standards for school breakfast and lunch. And perhaps even more importantly, students like healthy foods, and when given the healthy choice, they’ll choose them. Relaxing the USDA’s school meal regulations will do far more harm than good, because after all, we all can agree that healthy kids learn better.
Just a few examples of the success our champions are having:
- For Windham Raymond Schools in Maine the proof is in the school meal participation numbers. “This is the fifth year that we have been following the standards and our participation for middle and high school students is up 30 percent,” said Eliza Jane Adams, the district’s health education teacher.
- Wayne County School District in Monticello, Kentucky saw participation increase by 7 percent at breakfast and 2 percent at lunch during the 2013-2014 school year. Director of Food Service Karen Gibson attributes some of that growth to alternative breakfast offerings, including breakfast in the classroom and second chance breakfast.
- Deborah Taylor from Oklahoma City Public Schools says product manufacturers have been a tremendous help to the district in meeting nutrition standards for meals and snacks. “They are fantastic about showing products and getting feedback along the way.”
You can’t argue with evidence of success that these school champions clearly show. These healthy changes are working, both for our schools and for the academic and life-long success of our children.