What’s Cooking” with National School Lunch Week
School lunch #1 (Photo credit: Kolya)
Next week schools across the country will be celebrating National School Lunch Week. The National School Lunch Program is a federally funded program that provides more than 31 million children with nutritionally balanced lunch every school day. This year’s theme, “School Lunch – What’s Cooking?,” will be celebrated with events and activities that promote the benefits of healthy school lunches. There are so many ways for schools to celebrate this special week, including serving special school-made recipes from the School Nutrition Association like Minnesota Slaw or Harvest Pasta Salad, and participating in Take Your Parents to Lunch Day, during which parents can see for themselves what school lunch is all about.
The School Lunch Program requires meals to include certain foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit some nutrients like saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. The program also requires that children be served proper portion sizes to ensure that calorie intake is kept in check. One hotly debated topic over the past few years has been the use of high fructose corn syrup in school foods, including flavored milk. Some school administrators want to eliminate HFCS and replace it with other caloric sweeteners. Opponents of HFCS are losing sight of the fact that sugar from corn and sugar from cane or beets are nutritionally equivalent, and eliminating flavored milk from school food programs will do more harm than good. For example, milk is a very good source of calcium and other essential nutrients that children require, and children drink more milk when flavored varieties are available to them.
This year as students, teachers, and food service staff celebrate National School Lunch Week, let’s remember that we celebrate the inclusion of all foods in moderation!
Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian, member of the CRA RD Panel, and founder of Nutritioulicious™, a private practice in Manhattan. She has extensive experience as a nutrition writer, editor, and speaker, and has been featured as a nutrition expert on NBC, Fox 5, and NY1, and in national magazines, including Glamour, Fitness, and Woman’s Day. Jessica is a member of the American Dietetic Association and Greater NY Dietetic Association, and she consults for several food and beverage companies.
Members of the RD Panel are paid consultants to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), but their statements and opinions are their own. RD Panel members provide general dietary information, but you should consult your own physician or dietitian for advice concerning your particular circumstance