Students who eat nutritious meals perform better in school, and demonstrate fewer behavior problems. The federal government has issued certain guidelines for school lunch nutrition. Plus, they have issued the National School Lunch Program to ensure nutrition to children with families that struggle financially. However, many feel that the the health quality of their child’s lunch menu leaves room for improvement.
School lunch regulations require that individual states implement menus which include at least 5 items and represent the four major food groups. Additionally, no more than 30% of the meals calories can be from fat, and they must provide one-third of the daily requirements for calories, protein, and some of the major vitamins. The governments goal is to make sure that all children get at least one balance meal a day to maintain health.
However, if you have visited the your child’s school lunch room lately, you may have seen cause for concern. Many school lunches do not include high quality foods. Often meals come off the cafeteria line high in fat, highly processed and full of preservatives. Nearly 1 in 3 American children are overweight or obese, suggesting a serious need for change. However, schools are constrained by their budgets when it comes to feeding their students.
The Child Nutrition Act is up for reauthorization this year. On March 17, Senator Blanche Lincoln revealed her new version of this act, which called for $500/year boost in child nutrition funding. Many are concerned that this will not be enough for the school lunch reform that is needed, as President Obama had initially proposed a full budget of twice this amount. However, this bill could mean a record investment is child nutrition. Parents are urged to contact their local senators and ask for support in this matter.