NATIONAL HARBOR, MD (August 17, 2010)—As children return to school this fall, a new School Nutrition Association (SNA) website and survey are demonstrating healthy trends in school cafeterias nationwide.
SNA’s new Tray Talk website, www.TrayTalk.org, is designed to spotlight school meal successes and provide parents with information about healthy school meals. The site, launched today, will feature “School Nutrition Success Stories” from across the country, putting the spotlight on two different school nutrition programs each month. “Latest News on the Tray” stories will be posted monthly to provide details on hot topics in school nutrition.
This month’s “News on the Tray” reports on SNA’s Back to School Trends Survey. The study, which included responses from 538 school nutrition directors managing school district foodservice operations in 44 states, reveals that, despite rising costs, schools are serving more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. The data also shows that schools are making tremendous strides in reducing added sodium and sugar in foods served on the lunch line.
- 95% of schools districts are increasing offerings of whole grain products
- 90.5% are increasing availability of fresh fruits/vegetables.
- 69% of districts are reducing or eliminating sodium in foods
- 66% of districts are reducing or limiting added sugar
- 51% of districts are increasing vegetarian options
As Congress debates Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation which would establish national nutrition standards for competitive foods, the SNA report finds that many school districts are already adopting healthier a la carte and vending policies:
- 63% of districts with a la carte services are implementing nutrition standards
- 65% are limiting the size and/or weight of their a la carte food and beverage offerings.
- 67% of districts with vending services are increasing the availability of healthier beverages in vending machines.
Respondents were asked to volunteer specific improvements to their programs for the coming school year. Comments included: preparing salads with dark leafy greens, diversifying the menu with ethnic food choices, incorporating more whole grains in bread recipes, working with local chefs, starting farm to school programs and participating in the HealthierUS School Challenge.
These school nutrition successes are particularly impressive in light of the significant financial constraints on school meal programs. The survey found that:
- 78.6% of districts expect food costs to increase in the coming school year.
- 65% anticipate that the federal reimbursement for free and reduced price meals served under the National School Lunch Program will fail to cover the cost of producing the meals.
- Meanwhile, more students are relying on the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, with 83.5% of districts reporting increases in the number of free and reduced price participation in the 2009/2010 school year.
“School nutrition professionals are constantly working to improve school meals by offering more nutritious food choices, adopting healthier food preparation techniques and incorporating nutrition education into the cafeteria,” said SNA President Nancy Rice, M.Ed., RD, LD, SNS, State Director of the Georgia Department of Education, School Nutrition Division. “But school nutrition programs need the support of parents, as well as Congress, to build on this success. Tray Talk will offer parents, and anyone interested in school nutrition, the opportunity to get the facts about healthy school meals and get involved in their local school cafeterias.”
Tray Talk is made possible with support from the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP).