Five Years of Healthier School Meals

  • December 11, 2015
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Five years ago, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, Prince William and Kate Middleton were newly engaged and we took a giant step forward for children’s health in schools across the country.

On Dec. 13, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), raising the standards for school food for the more than 31 million students who eat meals at school each and every day. The new standards include providing fruits and vegetables and whole grain-rich foods to students as part of the meal program. It took two years from when the Child Nutrition Act first came up for reauthorization until the bill was signed into law.

Thanks to this bill, more students than ever are eating healthier school meals—97 percent of schools are meeting the new healthier standards. And those students are eating more fruits and vegetables. A Harvard study found that students are eating 23 percent more fruit and 16 percent more vegetables.

And the vast majority of Americans support the healthier meals. A recent poll from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation found 86 percent of Americans support the current school nutrition standards, and 93 percent of Americans think that serving nutritious school food to students is important.

In five years, we’ve made great progress, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges. Changing eating habits is hard, and that’s especially true of changing the eating habits of children. But extra effort to ensure our children are eating the healthiest food they can is worth it.

The USDA is expanding its mentorship program for school foodservice directors and providing $25 million in grants for kitchen equipment. And research shows simple changes—like cutting whole fruit into slices—can increase the amount of fruits and vegetables students eat. These are all positive changes that we should be excited about, and these are all changes that take time to implement and become the norm.

On the five-year anniversary of this important legislation, there are still some who want to see that progress rolled back. Despite overwhelming public support, the current science-based nutrition standards are under attack from some members of Congress and powerful food industry lobbyists. HHFKA expired in September, and Congress passed an extension.

A great way to celebrate the five-year anniversary of HHFKA is to let your Congressional representatives know you support healthy school meals for kids and you don’t want to see the great progress rolled back. Healthy Schools Campaign stands for healthy school food, and we’re asking you to stand with us. We’ve made it easy for you to send a letter to your Congressional representatives by simply entering your ZIP code via the following link. You can use or revise the templated letter that we’ve created, or write your own. Start your letter here.