The School Nutrition Association and the White House are placing a focus on changing guidelines during National School Lunch Week.
The School Nutrition Association issued a press release praising cafeteria professionals for their hard work, creativity, and efforts. The news release also repeated the assertions that many school districts have made, that they cannot afford to meet the stricter guidelines. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 sets nutrition standards and has mandated limiting fat and calories, and offering students more fruits and vegetables.
The SNA also addressed the assertions that many students are not choosing the healthier meals, or are throwing food in the trash. “SNA supports strong federal nutrition standards for school meals, including limits on calories and fat, mandates to offer students more fruits and vegetables, and reasonable sodium and whole grain requirements,” the group said. They continue to request “commonsense flexibility under the rules to help students adjust to healthier meals and protect the financial stability of school meal programs.”
According to USDA estimates, schools will absorb the cost of $1.2 billion in new food and labor costs this year under the guidelines.
In his National School Lunch Week proclamation, President Obama noted that 30 million children are depending on the program. For many, he pointed out, it is their only source of nutritious food. He confirmed the intent to expand access to healthy meals when he signed the 2010 Act. “Students now have more opportunities to eat healthy foods than ever before, including new options in vending machines and a la carte lines,” he said.
The SNA affirms that efforts to promote healthy choices and fruits and vegetables in school meals are more important than ever before. The challenges faced by school meal programs continue to include declining lunch participation and revenue, escalating food costs, and waste. During School Lunch Week, cafeteria professionals are being encouraged to find creative ways to encourage students to eat healthier meals.