Kids start to form their eating habits from a young age, and school meals programs can play a big role in that. The meals students eat at school not only nourish them during the school day but can also impact the way they eat for the rest of their lives.
That means you and the school meals you serve to students play an important role in setting kids up for success. Nutritious meals help kids focus in the classroom so they can succeed both academically and behaviorally. Plus, serving nutritious meals in school helps kids to get the nutrients and food groups they need. Thanks to the hard work of foodservice providers, research has shown school is where kids receive their healthiest meals of the day.¹
Many kids fall short of meeting the daily recommendations for fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains and thus fall short of meeting recommendations for the nutrients these food groups deliver like fiber, calcium, and vitamin D. The school meals menu pattern is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and designed to help kids get the food groups and nutrients they need. The USDA’s School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study showed that eating school meals was associated with a higher quality diet. This was largely because of higher intakes of whole grains, dairy, and vegetables. School nutrition is, therefore, key in helping kids form healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Good nutrition in schools can also positively impact kids’ health. A recent study compared the body mass indexes (BMIs) of almost 15,000 kids ages 5 through 18 before the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010 nutrition standards were implemented and after they were implemented. They found a significant decrease in BMIs of kids recorded after the HHFKA was put into practice.² The study authors concluded these findings suggest school meals may play an important role in combatting childhood obesity.
We know you care about the students you serve. Here are some steps you can take to help students develop healthy habits:
Here are some delicious ways to make eating school meals fun and nutritious to prepare students for a lifetime of healthy habits. Include fruits for breakfast with Apple Cobbler Overnight Oats, or make blenderless smoothies made with Yoplait® ParfaitPro® with ½ cup of fruit and 1 meat alternate per serving. Use frozen biscuits to make whole-grain rich, lunch-ready mini pizzas or fun, fresh flatbread sandwiches. Serve cereal bars that meet 2 oz grain equivalent requirements and come in flavors with massive kid appeal - a win for you and your students.
At General Mills Foodservice, we’ve got plenty of solutions to help you find recipes and plan menus that work for your program. Whether you rely on individually wrapped items that arrive ready to go, provide from-scratch meals, or land somewhere in the middle, we’ve got you covered.
²JAMA Pediatr. 2023;177(4):401-409. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.5828
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