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2015: A Banner Year for School Meals and the Health of our Nation's Schoolchildren

Posted by Hans Billger, Public Affairs Specialist, Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition
Dec 29, 2015

It’s been another outstanding year for healthier school meals programs and the millions of American students that benefit from them.  Today, more than 97 percent of schools nationwide report they are meeting the updated school meal standards, which are based on pediatricians’ and nutritionists’ recommendations. The new meals provide children more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.  There are numerous examples of how schools are providing a healthier school environment with more nutritious options to students across the country, but below are just a few:

1. A Student’s Perspective: How Fuel Up to Play 60 Supports Farm to School

Andrew is a Wisconsin seventh-grader and Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador. In collaboration with USDA, Fuel Up to Play 60 serves as an in-school nutrition and physical activity program to help encourage young people to lead healthier lives.

Andrew's school garden
The garden at Andrew’s school!

2. Wisconsin Team Nutrition’s Whipping Up Wellness, Wisconsin Student Chef Competition

The Team Nutrition Training Grants are awarded as part of USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative, which provides resources, training, and nutrition education lessons for schools and child care providers. Wisconsin Team Nutrition has used the funding to build their healthy cooking contest for the states’ middle and high school students.

Fresh fruits and vegetables in a high school cafeteria
Fresh fruits and vegetables in a high school cafeteria.

3. Recess Before Lunch – The Secret Ingredient of Montana’s School Lunch Program

Montana Team Nutrition has implemented a popular and successful Recess Before Lunch (RBL) program. Through this initiative, Montana students enjoy active play right before indulging a nutritious school lunch meal allowing them to return to class ready for academic success.

Students sitting and eating their lunch with School Chef Jason Moore
After they’ve finished playing at recess, students sit and eat their lunch with School Chef Jason Moore in Gallatin Gateway, MT.

4. School Embraces Nutrition Standards to the Culinary Delight of Its Students

Locally-sourced fish baked in fresh herbs and oil topped with a fresh cilantro slaw…It sounds like a dish from a five star restaurant, right? This is just one of many recipes registered dietitian and director of nutrition services Jenn Gerard offers students for lunch in her California school district. Learn how Monterey Peninsula Schools embraced the new nutrition standards, using them as a springboard to enhance their impressive school meals programs.

A group of women showing food and posters
Nutrition Services teams up with high school culinary classes to create recipes and menu concepts.

5. School Lunch Equipment Grants Help Provide Healthier Meals to Students Nationwide

USDA supports our tireless school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. USDA announced the availability of grants to help schools obtain much needed infrastructure to better serve nutritious meals, support food safety efforts, improve energy efficiency, and expand participation in school nutrition programs.

Flowing Wells employee using the oven unit
Flowing Wells employee use the oven unit they bought with NSLP equipment grants funds.
Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition