Back to School, Back to Good Food

September 04, 2013

HSC profiles school food challenges and opportunities for the new school year and beyond!

As a new school year begins, HSC is just as excited as the kids are, to see what's on the lunch menu. Every day the National School Lunch Program serves more than 30 million meals, and they're healthier for the second year in a row thanks to the USDA's improved nutrition regulations. That means more fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and less fat and sugar. In Chicago, the country's third-largest school district, this year's highlights will include expanded local and sustainable purchasing; fewer pre-plated, frozen meals; and a continued commitment to exceeding national standards. There's even a pilot garden-to-cafeteria program.

Across the country, school breakfast is also an option for more students than ever before — increasing nationally from 12.81 students to 13.14 million, according to the School Nutrition Association. Along with a healthy lunch, breakfast is key. Studies show a clear link between students who eat breakfast and improved cognitive performance.

Vending machines are healthier, too — 44 percent of school districts banned unhealthy snacks and drinks from vending machines last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that schools are communicating more with families about what kids eat during the school day. In 2000, just over one-third of districts made information available to families about the nutrition and caloric content of foods offered to students. By 2012, more than half of districts shared those nutrition facts.

But as always, schools must overcome several challenges as they bring healthy food to kids' plates.  

HSC spoke with experts from around the country about how schools are overcoming barriers and embracing opportunities this year.

Check back for more on our blog this week, as we share these vital perspectives on school food.