*** I am honored to have a guest post from Ms. Dora Rivas, School Nutrition Association President. Thanks for writing a guest post! ***
Photo caption: Fruit and vegetable choices in Fairfax County Public Schools (Va.)
Dora Rivas, MS, RD, SNS, is President of the School Nutrition Association and Executive Director of Child Nutrition Services for Dallas ISD (Tex.).
First Lady Michelle Obama recently told School Nutrition Association (SNA) members that “if you asked the average person to do what you have to do every day, and that is to prepare a meal for hundreds of hungry kids with just $2.68 a child – with only $1.00 to $1.25 of that money going to the food itself – they would look at you like you were crazy.”
In fact, school nutrition programs must prepare 31 million lunches a day that include servings of milk (or a milk alternative), fruits or vegetables, grains and proteins, while meeting other federal, state and local nutrition requirements, staying within limited budgets and pleasing the pickiest of eaters. These meals are served in age appropriate portions that limit fat and provide nutrients critical for development. However, many school districts have far surpassed current nutrition requirements:
– In St. Paul Public Schools (Minn.), more than 56 percent of total produce purchases from September to January were locally grown, and other locally produced foods such as Minnesota-raised bison, wild rice, honey and flaxseed are finding their way on the menu this spring.
– Spring Independent School District (Tex.) students love the raw jicama, sweet potato and beet sticks served with dip.
– In Yuma School District One (Ariz.), child nutrition staff bake whole wheat rolls from scratch.
– Polk County Public School District (Fla.) students rave about the low-fat breakfast yogurt parfaits with blueberries and granola.
Examples like these are found in cafeterias all across the country, with many discreet improvements going unnoticed. In fact, schools have turned kid-favorites into healthy options, like pizza prepared with whole grain crusts, low fat cheese and low sodium sauce or turkey burgers served on whole wheat buns.
But as school nutrition programs work to offer students more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, they need your support. Mrs. Q is raising awareness of school nutrition issues at a critical time – Congress is currently debating legislation to reauthorize child nutrition programs. Fed Up readers should contact their members of Congress to call for more funds for school meal programs, as well as nutrition standards for all foods sold during the school day. For more information, visit School Nutrition Association’s Legislative Action page and follow school nutrition news on Twitter @SchoolLunch.