Creating Engagement for Healthy Lunch Options in Schools
Healthy Meals are Important for Children’s Health & Academics
More than 23 million US children and teens are overweight or obese, placing them at increased risk for serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Research shows that students who do not have reliable, healthy meals in kindergarten are noticeably behind their peers in reading and math by the third grade. This tells us that insuring that school meals are healthy and in line with current nutrition science is important for kids’ health as well as for academics.
Salt in Food
Most kids get too much salt in their overall diets. Taste preferences for salt are shaped by what we eat early in life. Kids may not prefer so much salt if they’re given foods with less sodium from an early age. By reducing sodium in their foods gradually, over time, they might not even notice the difference in taste and eventually, higher-sodium foods may taste too salty to them.
Different brands and restaurant versions of the same foods can have different sodium levels, and some foods (like our Cook’s Delight® Broth Concentrates and Soup Bases) come in versions with less sodium. As food service professionals feeding children, we can make smarter choices about the foods we serve by comparing labels to pick the product with the lowest amount of sodium and the best taste we can find. A great way to season food is to replace salt with Cook’s Delight® Low Sodium Soup Bases. This provides a boost of flavor while reducing sodium in your menu.
Support Healthier School Lunches
How can food service professionals and educators help support the development of healthier school lunches? Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Incorporate nutrition education into the curriculum to help students understand the importance of healthy eating.
- Help keep parents informed about improvements to school foods by contributing information in class newsletters, letters home, back-to-school nights, school websites, etc.
- Serve as a role model by occasionally eating school lunch with the students.
- Talk to students about school lunches. Find out what they like/dislike about eating at school. Use their feedback as an opportunity to share with staff and solicit new ideas for improving the school lunch experience.
- Engage parents to serve on a nutrition and wellness council for your school so that they can bring new ideas, understand costs and challenges, and try new menu offerings that may eventually end up on the menu.
Free Resource from the USDA
Download the USDA’s “What’s Shaking” infographic to learn more ways that food service professionals can contribute to boosting the flavor of foods with less sodium. Remember, everyone from lunch reformers to cafeteria managers think that the best way to stay informed about school food is to experience it yourself, as there is no substitute for seeing, smelling and tasting the food that is served.
The FDA finalized changes to the current nutrition facts label of conventional foods and dietary supplements on May 20, 2016. The regulations were amended to provide updated nutritional information on the label and to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices.
When the FDA first announced they would be revising the system, there was huge debate over its content and design. All stakeholders, including consumers, manufacturers, scientists and food lobbyists were involved and over 300,000 comments were submitted.
What’s Different on the Nutrition Facts Panel
Although the look of the label remains the same, the information updates are aimed at ensuring consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions about what they eat.
- Servings: One of the most controversial changes in the new rule is in the serving size. The new rule for serving size reflects what people currently eat, not what companies decide seems reasonable. Serving size will appear in a larger and bolder font. Final Rule defining serving sizes.
- Calories: Because of the country’s growing obesity epidemic, the FDA officials have changed the format of the total calorie count to a much larger font size to increase the prominence of the term “Calories.
- Calories from Fat: Removing the declaration of “Calories from fat” because current science supports a view that the type of fat is more relevant than overall total fat intake in increased risk of chronic diseases. The subcategories of Total Fat – Saturated Fat and Trans Fat are still required.
- Updated Daily Values: Updating certain reference values used in the declaration of percent DVs of nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D based on newer scientific evidence. Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients that help consumers understand nutrition information in the context of total daily diet.
- Sugars: Changing “Sugars” to “Total Sugars” and requiring that “Includes `X’ g Added Sugars” be indented and declared directly below “Total Sugars” on the label. Added Sugars are noted in both grams and percent daily value and depict sugars that are added during processing versus sugars that come naturally in foods such as fruits and dairy.
- Changes in Nutrients Required: Vitamins A and C are no longer required to be on the label and are being replaced with Vitamin D and potassium. A lack of Vitamin D and potassium are putting people at risk for chronic disease, according to the FDA.
- Actual Amounts Declared: Manufacturer’s must declare the actual amount of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. Declaring the gram amount for other vitamins and minerals is voluntary.
- New Footnote: The new footnote has been revised to explain better what percent Daily Value means to the consumer. It reads: “The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”
- Maintenance of Records: Requiring the maintenance of records to support the declarations of certain nutrients under specified circumstances. See final rule for detailed information – Compliance section.
Compliance Dates for Food Manufacturers
Changes to manufacturer’s nutrition facts panel may be made now. The deadlines for changes are:
- Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual foods sales must comply with the FDA final rule by July 26, 2018.
- Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual foods sales must comply with the final rule by July 26, 2019.
FDA Industry Resources
Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods that Can Reasonably Be Consumed at One Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints; and Technical Amendments
Director Regulatory Compliance