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The data is in: students like new, healthier school meals! This is a major victory for families and schools everywhere!

The updated nutrition standards for school meals went into effect at the beginning of the 2012-13 academic year. Created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the new meals include more whole grants, low-dat dairy, fruits and veggies, and less sugars, fats and sodium.

Seems like an easy win, right? Well, not so fast. It took some time to get kids used to the healthy changes. That was to be expected of course, and many advocates for the healthy changes promoted tips for getting kids to try new foods, for making it profitable for cafeterias, and much more. 

Now two new studies show that kids actually like the new meals. By the spring of the 2012-13 academic year, school administrators in public schools across the U.S. reported that the majority of students liked the new meals, at least to some extent.

More specifically: 

  • While administrators at 56% of responding elementary schools agreed that students complained about the new lunches at first, about 2/3 reported that only a handful of students were complaining in the spring. 
  • 70% of elementary and middle schools, and 63% of high schools, thought students generally liked the new lunches.
  • Elementary school respondents reported that the healthier meals had no impact on student participation in the lunch program, or on plate waste. Only 20% of schools reported an increase in plate waste, and 21% reported a decrease! 

What does this all mean? Well, for parents like us it means our efforts to get kids to try new foods are working. We know all too well that a little creativity and persistance can go a long way. Ask your kids about the meals. Ask your school how you can help. Get involved in a Local Wellness Committee. These seemingly subtle actions can have a big impact on your kids' positive attitudes toward their own health. If there's one thing that's clear, it's that together we can support a healthier school day! 

All data from: "Student Reactions During the First Year of Updated School Lunch Nutrition Standards", by Bridging the Gap. July 2014. 



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