For the first time in 15 years there are major changes in school lunches that will result in healthier meals for kids. What’s changing? The new school meals will contain more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; low-fat or non-fat milk; and less sodium and fat. The meals will also be “right sized”– portion sizes will be based on a student’s age.
The most economical meal at school is the full meal, also called the reimbursable meal. A reimbursable meal includes at least three of the five components (meat or meat alternate, fluid milk, grains, fruits, and vegetables). One of the components must be a fruit or vegetable for the meal to count as a full meal and qualify the school to get some of the costs for the meal reimbursed.
High schools and an increasing number of middle and elementary schools have “Offer versus Serve”. This helps reduce waste by not making students take food that they don’t like or won’t eat and also provides more choices. However, students will now be required to have 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetable on their tray for it to count as a full meal. If the tray doesn’t have the fruit or vegetable component, students will be charged separately for each item on their tray (called ala carte) which is much more expensive.
Parents need to discuss lunch choices with their child so the bill for student meals isn’t a surprise….or even better go to school and eat with your kids.
Schools are doing their part by offering healthier foods. Now, we need to support the effort by encouraging children to give the healthier meals a try. Here are some new resources to help educate parents and kids on the meal changes:
- School Day Just got Healthier Parent Tip sheet – Key messages for parents
- Building Healthy School Lunches Videos – 4 videos by the Iowa Department of Education for kids and parents
- School Meals are Changing – quick guide on new lunch requirements for K-12 students