If you ask students what their favorite class is, many will answer either lunch or gym. And why not? It’s fun to eat and exercise with your friends.
But have you ever stopped to think how much thought and work goes into making lunch for all the students at your school? Have you ever made dinner for your family? Can you imagine cooking an entire meal for hundreds of kids?
School lunches got started way back in 1899. Principal Arthur Burch of South Division High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, asked for permission to open a lunch room in his school. His goal was to provide a hot lunch to students, so they could perform better in school in the afternoons.
It wasn’t until 1946 that President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act. That created the National School Lunch Program.
Today, the program provides nutrition assistance from the federal government to more than 101,000 institutions, most of which are public or nonprofit private schools.
Those schools that participate in the program get money from the federal government, as well as food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In return, they promise to serve lunches that meet minimum nutrition requirements set by the government.
So how many lunches are we talking about? According to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, the National School Lunch Program provides lunches to more than 31 million children each school day!
Experts hope that making school lunches even healthier in the future will lead to healthier kids who grow into healthier adults.
President Barack Obama recently signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The aim of this new law is to decrease hunger and obesity in American children.
To support this new law, the USDA recently introduced a new set of proposed nutritional standards for school lunches. If passed, these new standards would represent the first major revision to school lunch nutritional requirements in more than 15 years.
The new proposed standards call for more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. There would also be stricter limits on the amounts of saturated fats, sodium, calories and trans fats allowed in school lunches.
Some government officials have expressed concerns that the new standards will raise the cost of school lunches. The USDA, however, believes that the standards will promote healthier children. The new standards could be in place as early as 2012.