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Celebrating National School Lunch Week

Celebrating National School Lunch Week

If you attended public school, you are likely familiar with school meals. While school lunches have been viewed as un-appetizing or unhealthy, school meals are actually very nutritious! In fact, Arizona has 600,000 students that participate in the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs daily, and their lunch meals provide many nutritious benefits. The National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs provide low-cost or free meals to students at school, and they have very specific nutritional standards set by the United States government to promote health and prevent disease.

The National School Lunch Program has a very long and important history. Founded in 1946, this program was created to provide nutritious meals to children to improve health, wellbeing, and academic performance. Prior to the program officially starting, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Food Distribution Administration in 1942 which oversaw school lunches. The reason the U. S. Government recognized the importance of school meals was due to the military draft that was used in World War II. As many as one fourth of military recruits were seen as unfit for service due to malnutrition. This sparked alarm around military readiness and propelled research around nutrition science and education, starting the nation’s new school lunch program so young men may be physically fit for duty. 

As you can imagine, school lunches have changed a lot since the 1940’s, but they continue to provide great benefits for children and families. Because school lunches are required to meet certain standards, students who eat school lunches have well-balanced meals from getting key nutrients at lunch. Some schools also plant gardens so herbs, fruits, and vegetables can be used in school lunches and kids can learn more about where food comes from. Also, it’s easier for children to learn when they aren’t hungry. Families save time and money when their kids are enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. 

Feeding entire schools of children is no easy task. Food Service workers around Arizona and the U.S. work tirelessly to make sure that students are fed and enjoying their food so they can focus on learning and positive social interactions. To commemorate the importance of school lunches, their impact on children, and those who serve them, President John F. Kennedy created the National School Lunch Week in 1962. Below are some ways you can celebrate National School Lunch Week with your children, students, and school food service staff:

  1. Make home-made, lunch-themed thank you cards for Food Service Staff and Health Educators;
  2. Create superhero names for all the fruits and vegetables you will eat or learn about that week;
  3. Cook easy and nutritious meals with your children – you can find some on the AZ Health Zone Website;
  4. Talk with your child about the importance of eating school lunch and other meals;
  5. Discuss where fruits, vegetables, and other foods come that make up school lunches

Many changes have been made to school meals in the last 80 years and they will continue to change in the future as we learn more about food, nutrition, and new, exciting ways to help children be healthier than ever. In all this, celebrate the good of school lunches and those who make sure students get fed!