Changing the Way Our Children Eat at School


According to the American Heart Association 1 in 3 American kids and teens is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963.  With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.


Health risks associated with obesity in young people –

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Low Self Esteem
  • Depression

Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona –
“Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.” 


Jamie Oliver speaks on children and nutrition.

 These stats bring us to the food movement, not just the eat local and community CSA movement, but the food movement within our nation’s schools. Recently the USDA released new school nutrition guidelines for the first time in 15 years with the hopes of “raising a healthier generation of children”.  In an article from CNN Health, the new guidelines increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat milk while cutting the amount of sodium and saturated fat.  Also under the new rules federal minimum and maximum calorie intake guidelines would be established for the first time.

What better way to celebrate than through National Farm to School Month and National School Lunch Week October 15-19. The Farm to School Program is an effort to connect schools with local or regional producers in order to serve local or regionally produced foods in school cafeterias.  Check out the Farm to School Network for information, webinars, resources, and activities related to your state.  National School Lunch Week 2012’s theme is “School Lunch – What’s cooking?” and is celebrating the positive changes that have been made in school lunch programs across the country. 

So between new meal patterns, chef-inspired recipes and freshly prepared meals it just might be time to rethink eating at school!

One school district in Texas responds to the new changes with sleeves rolled up and ready!  Arlington ISD, the 8th largest school district in Texas, serves more than 60,000 meals per week, in its 73 schools.  Jackie Anderson, Director of Food Services feels the new guidelines have not been difficult to assimilate too since the district has been following the Texas Public School Nutrition and Food Policy which already has many of the same mandates that are now a part of the USDA’s School Nutrition Guidelines.  Although many changes have been seamless, Arlington has met some challenges which include, grade banding to insure students at specific grade levels are meeting the required standards. In addition, the district must meet minimums and maximums for proteins and grains per day and per week for different age groups as well as specifications for vegetable subgroups each week and every reimbursible meal must include a fruit or vegetable. 

An exciting part of what Arlington ISD is doing to meet the changes head on is working with the district’s professional chef, Eddie Palomino, whose main focus is the catering department, but also makes time to work with school kitchen staff, on reformulating recipes and making them more flavorful, working on presentation so food is more attractive to students, and most importantly making it fun to eat at school!

Greening the school building inside and out, the curriculum, and the student experience
    Other school nutrition ideas –