Are School Lunches Healthy?

School Lunches, Still Room for Improvement

Question: Parents, why do you send your children to school?

Answer: To give them the tools to succeed in life.

What better tool than health and nutrition? In 2014, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) did an evaluation of school lunches that showed the quality of foods being served had improved. However, a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has resulted in less strict guidelines for what can be served in school cafeterias.

In 2016, the CDC’s evaluation of school lunches revealed an overall decrease in quality of foods at schools:

  • 78.9% of schools offered whole grains each day for breakfast, down from 98.2% in 2014
  • 79.9% of schools offered whole grains each day for lunch, down from 94.4% in 2014
  • 39.9% of schools offered two or more fruits each day for lunch, down from 78% in 2014
  • 15.5% of schools offered self-serve salad bars, down from 30.5% in 2014
  • 55.6% of schools prepared meals with fresh and frozen vegetables, instead of canned, up from 54.2% in 2014
  • 75.8% of schools used low-sodium canned vegetables instead of regular canned vegetables, up from 51.8% in 2014
  • 67.9% of schools used other seasonings instead of salt, up from 65.1% in 2014
  • 32.6% of schools reduced the amount of sodium called for in recipes or used low-sodium recipes, up from 68% in 2014

While many parents and teachers realize that a child’s learning and behavior is highly influenced by what they eat while at school, there is still room for improvement in implementing more nutritious choices in schools.

A Comment from Dr. Bill

With the USDA’s recent decision to decrease nutritional standards in school cafeterias, it’s more important than ever to advocate for the health of our children. Schools still need to ban the use of foods containing added chemicals that interfere with learning and behavior, especially taste enhancers, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial colorings. Parents, please keep badgering your schools to make these changes.  We have always taught that schools are only as good and as healthy as the parents supporting them!