Photo: bookgrl (flickr)
Our kids are possibly eating two meals, and in some cases a snack, at school five days a week. Our schools have tremendous influence over the nutritional wellbeing of our young people. As a parent, I recently researched the ways I could make a difference in what is offered for school lunch.
Let’s start with the facts.
National And Local Programs
Our school lunch system is partially regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA website lists all of the programs mandated by USDA and other valuable facts, as well.
Under the USDA umbrella, several programs help manage a system like the nutrition in our public schools. Some of these programs are the Center for Nutritional Policy and Promotion, Team Nutrition and Eat Smart. Play Hard. On a state level, SNAP (State Nutrition Action Plans) collaborates with USDA in managing the nutrition in our public schools.
After I researched all of the national programs, I tried to look a little closer to home. I found that Gwinnett County in Georgia and many other counties around the United States have adopted a program called Farm to School.
This is a wonderful program. I hope it catches on in more communities across the country. Take a look at this video about the Farm to School program in Maryland.
Some schools even have their own gardens. Gardens are a wonderful way to make school subjects more interesting and exciting by providing a truly hands-on approach to learning.
I can only imagine the great lessons on plants, insects, weather, etc. that a science teacher can hold in a garden. A garden is a perfect location for other subjects like math and social studies. Take a look at the The Edible School Yard program at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkley California.
Steps To Get Involved:
- Go straight to the principal at your child’s school. Find out what they are currently doing and their future plans for school nutrition.
- Bring up the topic of school nutrition at the next PTA/PTO meeting.
- Do not be afraid to jump in and help! Many schools are planting gardens and using the food in their cafeterias. This can be a great help for our future leaders.
- Look at school nutrition specialists as partners in your effort to improve nutrition at your child’s school. These individuals can guide you in making real change.
- Support the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (CNR). Contact your senators and determine their positions on CNR and related issues. The phone number to The Capitol Switchboard phone number is (202) 224-3121.
In my next post I dive deeper into this subject by actually speaking with nutrition specialists in school districts around the country.