To the Editor:
In honor of National School Lunch Week, which took place last week, I invite everyone to join the U.S. Department of Agriculture in celebrating all of the school meal programs across the country that are providing healthy, appetizing foods to students. Federal support for school meals dates back more than 80 years. In that time, the science of nutrition has evolved, and so have the meals. Teachers and administrators have probably noticed more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their school cafeterias. That’s because recent changes to federal school nutrition standards underscored the importance of providing students healthy choices to fuel their bodies and minds.
More than 95 percent of schools nationwide are meeting these updated standards. And the impact is inspiring: School lunch net revenue has increased nationwide by approximately $450 million a year; teachers report that students are more attentive in the classroom; and a Harvard study has found that students are now eating more fruits and vegetables.
We’re excited about the progress and want to help schools continue that momentum. The USDA continues to offer a wide range of resources, such as our Healthier School Day Web page, which provides nutrition curricula, culinary techniques, webinars, and more. Our initiative Team Up for School Nutrition Success offers mentorship-based training to empower school nutrition professionals. We award grants to farm-to-school programs to incorporate locally sourced foods in meals.
And we’re committed to helping schools fight childhood hunger through the community-eligibility provision, which allows schools in high-poverty areas to increase access to food by offering meals at no cost to all students.
But all these tools would be useless without the hard work of teachers, school-food-service staff, and administrators nationwide. It’s their commitment to promoting wellness that makes this all possible. They deserve all of our thanks for everything they do to help raise a healthier generation.
Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services
U.S. Department of Agriculture
A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 2015 edition of Education Week as USDA Efforts on School Lunches Include Resources on Nutrition