Approximately 32 million children eat school lunch every day. With few updates to nutrition requirements over the last 15 years, these U.S. schoolchildren are about to see some big improvements! Since almost 1 in 3 children ages 6-19 in the United States is overweight or obese, it’s fitting that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has chosen to focus on increasing fruits and vegetables to limit obesity. As part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, the portion of fruits and vegetables served to children will double at each meal; fruits and vegetables contain energy, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water, necessary nutrients to enhance the health and wellbeing of every child. Additionally, only low-fat milk (nonfat or 1%) will be available, more whole grains will be offered, portions will be more appropriate, and there will be reductions in sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat.
Nutrition and education are inherently linked; improved nutritional status in children will improve academic performance and allow students to engage in more physical activity, another important step to reducing the current obesity rate. The school environment, whether it’s the classroom or the lunchroom, is a learning environment! It is important to educate children that fruits and vegetables are the normal, healthy way to eat.