Nearly 32 million children receive meals throughout the school day. These meals are based on nutrition standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. New nutrition standards for schools increase access to healthy food and encourage kids to make smart choices. Schools are working to make meals more nutritious, keep all students hunger-free, and help children maintain or reach a healthy weight.
Healthier school meals for your children
Your children benefit from healthier meals that include more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lower sodium foods, and less saturated fat. Talk to your child about the changes in the meals served at school.
More fruits and vegetables every day
Kids have fruits and vegetables at school every day. A variety of vegetables are served throughout the week including red, orange, and dark-green vegetables.
More whole-grain foods
Half of all grains offered are wholegrain- rich foods such as whole-grain pasta, brown rice, and oatmeal. Some foods are made by replacing half the refined-grain (white) flour with whole-grain flour.
Both low-fat milk (1%) and fat-free milk varieties are offered
Children get the same calcium and other nutrients, but with fewer calories and less saturated fat by drinking low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk. For children who can’t drink milk due to allergies or lactose intolerance, schools can offer milk substitutes, such as calcium-fortified soy beverages.
Less saturated fat and salt
A variety of foods are offered to reduce the salt and saturated fat in school meals. Main dishes may include beans, peas, nuts, tofu, or seafood as well as lean meats or poultry. Ingredients and foods contain less salt (sodium).
Schools can provide water pitchers and cups on lunch tables, a water fountain, or a faucet that allows students to fill their own bottles or cups with drinking water. Water is available where meals are served.
New portion sizes
School meals meet children’s calorie needs, based on their age. While some portions may be smaller, kids still get the nutrition they need to keep them growing and active.
Stronger local wellness programs
New policies offer opportunities for parents and communities to create wellness programs that address local needs. Talk with your principal, teachers, school board, parent-teacher association, and others to create a strong wellness program in your community.
MyPlate can help kids make better food choices
Show children how to make healthy food choices at school by using MyPlate. Visit MyPlate's 10 Tips Series for tips and resources.
Resources for parents
School meal programs can provide much of what children need for health and growth. But for many parents, buying healthy foods at home is a challenge. Learn more about healthy school meals and other nutrition assistance programs at the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service website.