It’s National School Lunch Week: Encourage students to dig in

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October 12, 2015 by HCDE-Texas

It's National School Lunch Week: Encourage students to dig inEach year, more than 85 million student lunches are served due in part to contracts awarded by HCDE Choice Partners cooperative. On Oct. 22, students and nutrition directors will taste food to help Choice Partners members identify food purchases and plan their 2016-2017 menus.

Every year during the second week in October, we celebrate National School Lunch Week to remind teachers, students and parents about the nutritional and economic benefits of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

The NSLP has its own rich history. Having begun in 1952 under President Harry Truman, the NSLP added breakfast to its menu in 1966 when the School Breakfast Program (SBP) was piloted. Many students in the U.S. are unaware that the NSLP and SBP require school meals to meet federal nutrition standards.

Did you know, for example, that school lunches are designed to provide one third of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of essential calories, vitamins and nutrients? If you eat breakfast at school, you add an additional one fourth of the RDA and, according to recent research, boost your performance in class.

Too often, students develop a negative view of school food because it lacks the high sugar and fat content of snack food and other unhealthy items commonly marketed to children. School meals, by contrast, offer students items from all five major groups. In recent years, the NSLP has increased students’ consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains. Food served on a school cafeteria tray is often much healthier than what’s served at home or at a restaurant.

It’s cheaper, too. Because they are federally subsidized, school meals are a more economical choice for parents as well as schools. Many people do not realize that student participation in the NSLP is voluntary. They are unaware that this self-supporting program uses no local district funds.

Teachers have many fun and effective options available to help educate students about the benefits of the NSLP. Nutrition lessons, taste tests, classroom celebrations and other activities all play an important part in promoting a program that serves our students year round – but only if they take advantage of it.

About this blogger:
Trisha Jensen is assistant director of HCDE Choice Partners cooperative and the director of food contracts. Her background in food service, commodity processing and contract procurement, including her B.S. in nutrition from Stephen F. Austin State University, makes her an expert on school nutrition and purchasing. She has two children – Andrew, 14, and Sydnee, 16 – so you could also say she’s an expert on teenagers.

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