Celebrate National School Lunch Week

October 9-13 is National School Lunch Week! Every day, over 30 million children eat school lunch through the National School Lunch Program, adding up to over 5 billion lunches each year. That’s a lot to celebrate!
School lunch provides a nutritionally balanced meal to hungry students. It’s tough to learn on an empty stomach, so school meals help students’ minds as well as their bodies. Depending on your household income, your child may qualify for free or reduced-price ($0.40) school meals. The money families save can help them direct more money to healthy meals at home.
Some parents have questions about the nutritional quality of school meals. School meals must meet strict standards. There are limits on total calories, sodium, and percent of calories from saturated fat, the type of fat linked to heart disease. All food groups must be offered at every meal, and different categories of vegetables must be offered throughout the week. And all foods from the grain group must be whole grains, which contain more vitamins and fiber.
Research shows that school meals are healthier than most packed lunches, which are less likely to include a vegetable, more likely to be higher in sodium, and almost always include cookies, chips, or other snack foods.
Celebrate school lunch week by taking a closer look at the school menu with your child. Are there new items he or she has not tried before? What are some favorite items on the menu? Encourage your child to always take both a fruit and a vegetable, and to be adventurous in trying new foods. Ask each day what she or he chose for lunch, and if they enjoyed it.
Be a champion for school meals. The more students participate, the more schools can improve the quality of their food.

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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall