New School Year, New Healthier Lunches

This year, there is something new at our nation’s public schools.  According to the ADA –the American Dental Association – and other nutrition advocates, this something new is healthier meals.  School lunch trays will now have more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less salt and unhealthy foods because of updated school meal standards created by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  The ADA has long supported this legislation passed by Congress, which encouraged the first USDA update in fifteen years of National School Lunch Program nutrition standards.   The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in more than 100,000 public and non-profit private schools, which last year, provided free or low-cost nutritional lunches to more than 31 million children each school day.

This new law was passed in 2010 and requires increased availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the school menus for the 2012-2013 school year, and also requires gradual reductions in sodium content in ensuing years, as well.  The specifics of what foods to be served and how they are prepared will be left up to the local food authorities.  The Act also provides additional funding for school meals.  Beginning October 1, an additional six cents per meal will be available to schools for each healthy meal they serve.

The ADA Mouth-Healthy website promotes the new school lunch standards stating, “Your body is a complex machine.  The foods you choose and how often you eat them can affect your general health and the health of your teeth and gums.  If you consume too many sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drink or non-nutritious snacks, you could be at risk for tooth decay.  Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease, but the good news is that it is entirely preventable.”