Good nutrition is important to health, especially for children as they grow and develop lifetime habits. Healthy school meals contribute to your child’s academic success, growth and development. A 2012 USDA study found that school lunches were healthier than those in the average child’s diet. School meals supply one-third of the calories, protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A and E that children need. School meals now have more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These healthy food choices help contribute to the prevention of childhood obesity. If children come to school hungry, it is hard for them to concentrate and be successful in the classroom. Participation in the School Breakfast Program makes healthy foods available to children so that they are ready to learn.
There are other benefits of school meals that you may not know about. School meals expose your child to healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains. This gives them opportunities to try new fruits or vegetables and other foods they might not have tried. The influence of other children can contribute to the likelihood that children will try new foods. Research suggests that what other children eat at the table influences acceptance of foods. Schools provide health and nutrition classes. Teachers link what is offered in the cafeteria to good health. In a sense, the cafeteria is a “laboratory” for children. They apply what they learned in the classroom as they make healthy food choices when offered school foods.
So, you see, school meals do more than feed children: They contribute to academic success and good health!
Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, email@example.com, 573-882-1933