In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued new guidelines on school meal nutrition standards. The new rules are intended to revise the meal patterns and nutrition requirements for consistency with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The new standards are extraordinarily important to the health and learning of America’s school children. Nearly 32 million children eat a school lunch every day; more than 20 million of them are low-income children. School meals are crucial to these children, and the new standards will go a long way to remedy nutritional shortfalls and help address the nation’s obesity problem.
Overall, the rule requires schools to offer more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain-rich foods beginning the 2014-2015 school year. Menus will now be based on food group requirements rather than nutrient calculations. Fruit and vegetable serving requirements will be at least doubled in both the breakfast and lunch servings.
The result of all these changes placed upon the schools is an opportunity to provide a well-rounded diet for students. The London City School breakfast and lunch program will be a product of these changes. The percentage of students receiving a free or reduced lunch in London is higher than the state average. Therefore, it is imperative that students be given the opportunity to participate in our food program. In particular, the elementary building will implement a new method of serving breakfast by encouraging each student to go through the breakfast line. The effort is to assure each student is ready to learn when he or she enters the classroom.
Skipping breakfast and experiencing hunger can impair children’s ability to learn. Statistics show children who experience hunger have lower math scores and are more likely to repeat a grade. They are more prevalent to have behavioral and emotional problems as well.
One in four Ohio children and teens are confronted with not only getting enough to eat but also accessing foods that promote good health. Over 850,000 Ohio students are eligible for free/reduced price school meals. Over the last 10 years, this total number has increased from 32 percent to 46 percent. London City Schools has experienced some of the same increases. Thus the reason we are taking a proactive approach to our food service program.
School breakfast is a part of the solution to childhood hunger and ensures a healthy meal at the start of every school day. School-aged children spend over 40 percent of their awake hours at school each year. Many children rely on school not only for education, but for nourishment as well so schools are a logical setting to provide nutritious food and teach healthful behaviors.
With the help of our families, we hope to address the issues we are facing. If children are not receiving breakfast at home or not bringing a lunch to school then we encourage parents to make sure your children are utilizing the food service program provided by the London City Schools.
Thomas Ben is the superintendent of London City Schools. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org