If you ask students what their favorite class is, many will answer either lunch or gym. And why not? It's fun to eat and exercise with your friends.
But have you ever stopped to think how much thought and work goes into making lunch for all the students at your school? Have you ever made dinner for your family? Can you imagine cooking an entire meal for hundreds of kids?
School lunches got started way back in 1899. Principal Arthur Burch of South Division High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, asked for permission to open a lunch room in his school. His goal was to provide a hot lunch to students, so that they could perform better in school in the afternoons.
It wasn't until 1946 that President Truman signed the National School Lunch Act. The Act created the National School Lunch Program. Today, the Program provides nutrition assistance from the federal government to over 101,000 institutions, most of which are public or non-profit private schools.
Those schools that participate in the Program get money from the federal government, as well as food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In return, they promise to serve lunches that meet minimum nutrition requirements set by the government.
So how many lunches are we talking about? According to the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, the National School Lunch Program provides lunches to over 31 million children each school day!
Experts hope that making school lunches even healthier will lead to healthier kids who grow into healthier adults. This movement gained a lot of support in 2010 when President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law. The aim of this legislation is to decrease hunger and obesity in American children.
To support the new law, the USDA enacted a new set of nutritional standards for school lunches in the 2012-13 school year. These new standards represent the first major revision to school lunch nutritional requirements in over 15 years.
The new regulations deliver for more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. There are also stricter limits on the amounts of saturated fats, sodium, calories and trans fats allowed in school lunches.