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Message from President Dennis VanRoekel on New School Meals

October 11, 2012

Childhood obesity is a national epidemic that requires bold solutions. Nearly 1 in 3 children is at risk for preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes, once known as “adult onset” diabetes, and heart disease due to overweight and obesity. It’s alarming that if the trend continues, our current generation of children may have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

Since school age students consume as many as half their meals in school, school meals play a critical role in helping children learn. As educators, we have an obligation to ensure and support healthy school meals. That is why the NEA has supported the new nutrition standards outlined in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA 2010), which significantly improves the nutritional content of school meals, reducing fat and sugar and increasing the use of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

The NEA believes when it comes to the health of America’s youth, it’s best to think of exercise and nutrition as different sides of the same coin. Students need both to perform well in school and develop healthy lifestyles that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

The new school meals are intended to be high in nutrients and adequate in calories consistent with the latest nutrition science. Based on their age, students are getting the recommended portions. In addition to lower-fat and leaner proteins, the new school meals offer more fruits and vegetables at lunch—roughly double compared to the standards.

Educators are encouraged to educate students about the new standards. We can creatively engage and educate students to increase acceptance. To encourage students to consume foods which they may not be accustomed, schools may employ multiple strategies, including taste tests before introducing new foods on the menu, creative marketing/presentation of foods, and offering multiple choices within food components. For more information, visit The School Day Just Got Healthier.

Thank you for all you do every day to help America’s public school students be the best they can be.


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