Dear Katie Couric,
My friends and I would like to invite you to lunch in some very trendy, very healthy – but clearly undiscovered – dining rooms around the country. We heard your recent Good Morning America comments that “50% of school districts serve junk food for lunch, fast food for lunch. Kids are getting terrible choices.” We are delighted to tell you that nothing could be farther from the truth.
The real news about school lunch is that 30+ million students enjoy amazing choices every day. Thanks to the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, dedicated school nutrition professionals and thousands of health, nutrition and community partners, kids now have access to a truly amazing variety of:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, sometimes organic, often local or even ‘hyper-local’ – straight from school garden
- Whole grains, including quinoa, brown rice and other gluten-free options, as well as freshly baked whole wheat rolls and whole grain pizza crusts
- Lean proteins like hummus, black bean salad and grilled tofu, boat-to-school salmon in Alaska and Montana beef for Montana schools
- Delicious dairy products, such as Greek yogurt parfaits, berry smoothies and artisan cheeses, in addition to low-fat/fat-free milk at every meal
But, please don’t take our word for it. Come see the amazing variety and taste the deliciousness that is school lunch in America today. We’re so sorry that the Fed Up researchers did not dig deeper into the revolution in schools meals (breakfast, lunch, snacks and suppers) growing in thousands of districts.
Here are a few tasty tidbits showing how well fed our children are in schools today:
- USDA Farm to School Census: In USDA’s most recent survey (SY 2011-12) schools invested $354,599,266 in local economies by purchasing local foods.
- National Farm to School Network: More than 1,000 local food champions recently met in Austin to celebrate and ‘power up’ for expanding programs.
- USDA HealthierUS School Challenge: 6,730 schools in 49 states and DC have met rigorous nutrition and physical activity criteria for these awards.
- Food Corps: This nationwide team of 140 passionate service members and fellows in 108 sites connects kids to real food to help them grow up healthy.
- Chefs Move to Schools: Hundreds of chefs now work in school programs, as directors, leaders and regular volunteers to train staff and energize kids.
- Salad Bars Move to Schools: 1.7+ million students are eating up produce packed into 3,400+ new salad bars donated to schools from coast to coast.
- CIA Healthy Kids: The nation’s top chefs offer culinary resources to schools so they can continue serving tasty, appealing, nutritious food to children.
- Vermont FEED: This is one example of regional efforts with a nationwide reach to provide nutrition education and culinary training to schools.
Many of us have admired your work for years – and now we would like to share ours with you! Lunch is on us – we just want you to see, and more importantly taste, the amazing changes being served up in America’s school kitchens and dining areas.
You name the date and location – and we will be there to show you how hard School Nutrition Association members work to ensure that children are well nourished and ready to learn!
Dayle Hayes, MS, RD
Nutrition for the Future, Inc.
Billings, MT 59102