What Schools Can Do To Get Children To Eat Healthy Lunches

Ideas Parents Can Suggest And School Lunchrooms Can Follow

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There are a lot of challenges in today's school lunch room.  There is growing concern about a childhood obesity epidemic.  There are new federal standards for school lunches.  There are increased food costs due to inflation and the desire to meet healthier standards.  And of course, there is also getting kids to eat food that is good for them. 

Each school and school district will have to choose the best path for the best lunches they can provide.

  One of the great things about the US public school system is that local policy is the biggest influence over our schools.  While I believe that the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act is a terrific step towards ensuring that US school children have access to healthy, nutritious meals at school, I also see that different areas may face different challenges and choose to opt out of the program.  Whether or not you think your child's school should opt out of receiving the reimbursements for free and reduced lunches along with other monies the USDA offers schools that comply with the new USDA standards, the following questions and ideas can be used by schools to encourage children and teens to eat healthy foods that are offered at school.

Serve healthy food that is regionally and culturally appropriate.  People generally like to eat foods that they are familiar with and already enjoy.  Find ways to take these local and regional dishes and prepare them in healthy and tasteful ways.

  For example, chicken fried steak is a popular dish from the Southern US that is now loved in other regions of the country as well.  Rather than deep frying beef portions, a whole grain breading may be added and then the meat can be baked.  Gravy like sauces can be made from low sodium broths and low fat milk.

  This strategy of finding healthy ways to prepare favorite meals has been used by many schools.  Some school districts have even hired chefs and recipe developers to revamp favorite foods.

Take Advantage of The Right Programs - There are numerous programs available to get local healthy foods into schools.  One program is the Farm To School Program.  This federally funded program is managed by individual states.  The purpose of the program is to encourage locally farmed goods to be served in local schools.  Since each state has choice to participate in the program and set its own guidelines, this program works a bit differently depending on your location.  Parents can ask the head of their school lunch room if their child's school is participating, and if the program would be a good fit for their school.  Other opportunities for grants or partnerships with local food producers may also help reduce costs while getting healthy food into the school cafeteria.

Make Sure The Healthy Meals Are Given A Good Presentation Just like when you go to a restaurant or the grocery store, how food is presented can make a big impact in how much children will want to eat the food that is served to them.

  Schools can give menu items fun sounding names.  They can put up posters with appetizing pictures of healthy foods.  School lunch lines can also consider the order in which foods are offered or presented.  For example, having children select their fruit and vegetable sides before they can select an entree choice will encourage children to take their fruits and vegetables instead of turning them down because the child believes they can fill up solely on the entree they selected first.

These are all ideas that you can share with the person who is in charge of your child's school lunch room.  When advocating for better lunches, be sure to take positive and constructive steps in the conversation to help move things forward.  Still, one of the most influential steps for your child's food choices isn't one that starts in the school lunch room.

Have A Positive Home Influence  Be sure to take steps to encourage your child to have healthy eating habits, both in home and at school.  Never underestimate the power of your influence on your child.  Steps you take at home will encourage your child or teen to make the best choices away from home.

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