Do You Know What’s in Your Child’s School Lunch?
Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey started their careers in education and saw first-hand that kids were not getting proper nutrition at school. To combat this problem, they created Revolution Foods to provide affordable, nutritious, and taste-test meals approved by the students and families they reach.
Kristin and Kirsten share what they think parents should know about school lunches and how to make the most of what is available in the school cafeteria.
Look for school lunches that kids like, not that just meet just the basic nutritional requirements
According to Kristin and Kirsten, school lunches can really vary depending on the school or school district’s leadership, food service operations, and facilities. For schools which provide meals to students who qualify for free meals under the National School Lunch Program, the meals are required to meet certain nutritional requirements to be compliant. However, these meals do not always prioritize high-quality ingredients, clean label foods, or chef-crafted recipes that are designed with kids’ tastes and desires in mind, so kids don't always eat the meals. One solution used by Revolution Foods has been to have chefs connect directly with students to make sure they are designing food that kids love and crave, and to ensure that their ingredients meet not only the basic “compliance” requirements but also a much higher standard when it comes to quality. This approach has been shown in a recent study to be associated with improved academic performance at schools.
Encourage all students to get school lunches
In general, the more frequently students of all income levels participate in the school meal programs, the more revenue the program has to work with, which allows them to expand their offerings and increase the variety of foods offered. Start with building an understanding of the program, get to know the food service leadership (Food service Director or other onsite personnel) and facilities, and ask questions about the approach the school is taking to ingredient quality, nutritional integrity, and food preparation. Kristin and Kirsten encourage parents to become more engaged in their children’s school lives, including school lunch offerings.
Know what the school cafeteria is serving
Parents should always know what their kid’s school meal program is comprised of. They recommend going to visit your kids during lunchtime – see what they’re eating, what it looks like. If the school doesn’t have a food service director, the principal is usually the best person to approach with constructive questions, concerns, and ideas. If you do visit, look for fresh fruits and vegetables, look and ask about the quality of ingredients and “clean” labels on the foods being offered.
Ask questions if you don't like what you see
If you have concerns regarding your child’s school lunch, don’t be afraid to talk to your school’s administration. Know that schools do have limitations and requirements within which they must operate, so take an approach of partnering with the school food leaders – don’t make any assumptions that they are making bad choices about X or Y. Instead, seek to understand why they are offering X versus Y. For example, if they are serving canned or preserved fruits, ask why they are serving that rather than fresh fruit or vegetables.
All kids deserve school lunches that are both healthy and delicious!