Are School Lunches Healthy?

In order for a school to receive federal funding for food service programs, they must serve school lunches that meet certain nutritional requirements set by the USDA. But what many parents might not know is how many schools aren’t meeting those requirements.

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How nutritious are the lunches in your child’s school?

The USDA requires that school lunches:

  • contain no more than 30 percent of calories from fat
  • contain no more than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat
  • provide one-third of the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for calories, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium

However, according to the third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study (SNDA III) which analyzed school lunches from the 2004/2005 school year, the average school lunches fell short in the following ways:

  • All school lunches contained at least 34 percent of calories from fat.
  • 80 percent of school lunches exceeded guidelines for total fat.
  • 70 percent of school lunches exceeded guidelines for calories from saturated fat.

The study also found that “foods sold in competition with USDA school meals were widely available on campus, particularly in secondary schools.” These are foods sold a la carte in the cafeteria, for fundraisers, and in vending machines that were not in keeping with the USDA nutrition guidelines.

The good news from this assessment was that more than two-thirds of school lunches met the requirements for protein, vitamins, and minerals.

And although this assessment is the most recent of its kinds, it has been eight years since school lunches were studied in this manor. In that time, childhood obesity and diabetes numbers have skyrocketed. So, here’s hoping that the next analysis reveals improved nutrition in every category.

What do you think of these results? Tell us in the comments section below!

Sources: http://www.healthyschoollunches.org and http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/business/SNDA3summ.pdf