Reading, Writing—and More Whole Grains?

As kids head back to school this fall, they can expect healthier school lunches.
Thanks to reformed school lunch standards, kids are going to eat a whole lot healthier this school year. (Tom Grill/Getty Images)
Sep 5, 2012
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

After the summer slump, schools have to work hard to swing kids' brains back into gear. But thanks to new school meal standards, schools will have a little help harnessing brain power this year: School lunches have gotten more nutritious.

Yep, kids will be served twice as many fruits and veggies, as well as more whole grains and less salt and bad fats, reports Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The standards—which also set maximum and minimum calorie requirements to remedy both childhood obesity and hunger—were announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) early in 2012 as part of the Child Nutrition Reauthoriziation Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Acts of 2012. Lauded by health advocates, the standards are a welcome change after 15 years of stagnant policies. 

MORE: 'Food, Inc.' Fans Helped Change National School Lunch Policy

Fixing up school lunches stands to impact 32 million children who eat school lunches and breakfast. According to the USDA, many children get as much as half their daily calories from the foods they eat at school.

Kids at both ends of the spectrum need help with daily nutrition. One in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese; one in five U.S. households struggle to put food on the table.

As an added incentive to offering healthier options, starting October 1, schools will receive an additional six cents for each healthy lunch they serve. Standford University's Scope blog reports that would add up to an estimated $1.5 billion in school lunch funding in the next five years if all schools jump into action immediately.

What did you grow up eating in your school cafeteria? Let us know in the comments section below.

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