School meals which consist of breakfast and lunch are critical to a students well being at school throughout the day and even in day-to-day life for some. In fact, a lot of families count on school meals to ensure their child gets the nutrition they need to learn throughout the day. That being said, what are the standards that school meals need to follow in terms of nutrition & providing your child with adequate & age-appropriate calorie intake?
The National School Lunch Program or NSLP, ensures students receive whole grains, lean proteins, and fat-free or low-fat milk with every lunch provided. In 2012 school nutrition guidelines were revisited and were amended to include more fruits, veggies & whole grains while also reducing trans fats & sodium, helping to make school-based meals even more nutritious. And in one study school-based meals were proven to be healthier and more nutritionally balanced than packed lunches and were also associated with lower body mass index in students too!
For those that can not afford the daily cost of school breakfast and/or lunch the Free & Reduced meals offered to all students who qualify help to reduce food insecurity, obesity rates & help to prevent poor health. The main priority of the school meal program is to ensure your child has the nutrition, energy, and brainpower to complete a full day of school & learning. And when students are involved in extracurricular activities it helps to ensure that they have the energy and the nutrients they need to participate safely. But the benefits of school meal programs do not just stop there. In studies done, it has also been found that when students are hungry throughout the school day they are more likely to have harder learning, and can even experience behavioral & emotional health issues!
- Mental, behavioral & emotional health, as well as academic issues, are more common among those students struggling with any hunger issues
- Students that experience hunger during the school day have lower math scores and poor grades
- Children/Students who experience hunger show more signs of hyperactivity as well as behavioral & attention problems. They are also more likely to be tardy or absent.
- High school-age students are more likely to be suspended from school & have more issues getting along with other students.
- Children that experience hunger is more likely to have to repeat a grade, are more in need of mental health & special education programs.
In the end, children who are expected to complete a full school day need the proper nutrition and an adequate intake of food. Not only does this help their overall well-being, but they also learn better and are able to interact with their peers better as well. And with the updated nutrition guidelines you can rest assured that your child is getting the very important nutrition they need when consuming school meals.