Christopher Ranch

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Move Over Hot Dogs & Tater Tots – It’s Time For Some Fruits & Veggies On School Menus

The days of corn dogs and tater tots for lunch might soon be over.

Perhaps to the chagrin of K-12 students throughout the U.S. – what kid doesn’t consider tater tots one of the essential food groups? – much-needed nutritional reform is likely on the way, which will give school meals a makeover that looks more like salads, apples, carrots and sandwiches and less like fiesta pizza, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and sloppy Joes.

The health wave might take some getting used to for the 40-million kids eating school meals, accustomed to traditional pizza and cheeseburgers, but our kids – and population – are among the most unhealthy and obese in the world, and in real danger of serious health conditions linked to unhealthy eating habits, which, scaringly, have been reinforced at schools.

Our kids are the future, and they deserve to lead a long, healthy life.

The produce industry, through the advocacy of the United Fresh Produce Association, strongly supports such menu changes, which haven’t been revamped in 14 years.

Such moves for nutritional change include:

1.) The Child Nutrition Act expired in September, and there are hopes the program will be renewed and expanded to incorporate additional and more accessible fresh produce. United Fresh, according to a release, has several suggestions for the act, including:
- Enacting a national “Salad Bar In Every School” policy.
- Increasing the current reimbursement rate for all school meals to reflect rising food, labor and transportation costs and to meet current nutrition standards and the Dietary Guidelines.
- Urging USDA/AMS to significantly expand its commodity purchases of fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables for schools.

2.) The Institute of Medicine’s “School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children” report has quantified the portions of healthy foods that need to be incorporated into school menus, according to a release, including:
- Increasing the amount of fruit offered in school breakfast to one cup per day for all students.
- Increasing the amount of fruit offered in school lunch to one cup per day for students in grades 9-12.
- Increasing the amount of vegetables offered in school lunch to 3/4 cup per day for grades K-8 and to one cup per day for grades 9-12 and others.

3.) Rep. Sam Far (D-CA) is expected to introduce the Children’s Fruit and Vegetable Act of 2009 in Congress, which supports and emphasizes several of the Institute of Medicine’s suggestions and endorses salad bars as a way to encourage fresh produce consumption in cafeterias, according to United Fresh.

Overhauling school cafeterias is a major undertaking. However, it will benefit the health of children and general population for years to come and can be accomplished with your help. We encourage you to support the move by contacting your representative in Congress.

Like they say, do it for the kids!

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