Did you know National School Lunch Week was established by a proclamation from President John F. Kennedy in 1963? The proclamation was designed to raise awareness of and support for the role of nutrition in the lives of American children.
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), established in 1946 as a matter of national security, was signed into law by President Harry Truman. It is the largest of the federal child nutrition programs. Nationwide more than 28 million children are served lunch every day. More than 13,000 lunches are served in Columbia County schools daily.
The federal govern-ment subsidizes all student meals purchased through the NSLP. Schools that chose to participate in the lunch program get cash subsidies and donated food commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additionally, children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent and 180 percent of poverty levels receive reduced or free meals.
Meals must meet the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Regulations establish the nutrient standard for calories, protein, fat, saturated fat, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium. Lunches provided through the NSLP can be a critical part of maintaining a healthy childhood weight.
School lunches provide more fruits and vegetables, and contain less fat, than the average bag lunch brought from home. Milk is always available with school lunch, while bag lunches often contain a sweetened beverage or juice-flavored drink.
Through the NSLP, children consume twice the number of servings of fruits and vegetables, and more dairy and grains than children who eat a lunch brought from home. Last year the school lunch program in Columbia County served more than 2.3 million pints of milk, 225,000 bowls of cereal, a half-million cartons of 100 percent juice, 25,000 pounds of salad and 310,000 apples.
The national School Nutrition Association, of which Columbia County is a part, celebrates National School Lunch Week with an annual theme. The theme this year, "Reach Your Peak with School Lunch," emphasizes good nutrition and physical activity.
Parents are always welcome to join their student for lunch any time during the school year and especially during National School Lunch Week. Special activities include celebrity servers, special guests, and special menus. Contact your student's school to find out how to join the celebration.
(Jo Marie Lombard, M.Ed., is school nutrition coordinator for Columbia County schools.)
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