This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) joins youth, parents, schools, communities, and partners across the country in honoring National School Lunch Week 2016, as proclaimed by President Obama, a time to reflect on the positive steps our nation has taken to make nutrition a priority in every U.S. school. This also coincides with the month-long celebration of Farm to School Month, which recognizes efforts to bring local foods into schools and onto students' trays.
"This is a time to reflect on the important role of the National School Lunch Program and Farm to School initiatives in improving the health of children across the country, as well as creating new opportunities for farmers and ranchers to provide schools with fresh, nutritious food," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "USDA recognizes the dedicated school nutrition professionals who are committed to creating a healthy environment for all children, teaching them the importance of good nutrition, and helping them form the healthy habits they need to thrive in the classroom and beyond. We also celebrate the success of farm to school initiatives, which support local economies and are truly a win-win for America's schools, farmers, producers, communities, and children. We will continue to work tirelessly until consistent access to nutritious food is a reality for every child in America."
The more than 50 million children who attend schools that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs are experiencing school environments that are healthier than ever. These students have access to balanced meals that reflect the latest nutrition science in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as well as recommendations from pediatricians and National Academy of Medicine. The meals feature more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat milk. Many of these items can be locally-sourced through farm to school programs.
The fresh, local foods offered through farm to school programs help school meal programs provide healthy, appealing, and diverse offerings. Results of the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census show that more than 42,000 schools nationwide have a farm to school program. These schools report reductions in food waste, higher school meal participation rates, and increased willingness of the students to try new foods, notably fruits and vegetables. In the 2013-14 school year alone, these programs invested nearly $800 million back into local economies, helping 23.6 million students develop healthy eating habits and learn where their food comes from.
To view the full press statement, click here.