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Food in Schools

Eating a healthy diet helps children stay alert during class, fight off illnesses, and grow into strong, healthy adults. School children get up to half the food they need each day at school, which makes schools an important place for learning healthy eating habits. School food policies help schools provide children with foods and drinks that are part of a healthy diet.

The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program provide complete meals to millions of American children every day.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires the meals served by these programs to be healthy and nutritious.  New guidelines effective in 2012 will make school meals healthier. 

Students may also buy foods and drinks from vending machines, school stores, and á la carte cafeteria lines. These foods and drinks are called “competitive foods” because students may choose to eat them instead of the nutritionally balanced meals provided by the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. Many states and school districts have adopted policies to make competitive foods healthier, and the USDA is considering new federal nutrition guidelines for these foods.

School food policies may also include limits on food for celebrations and rewards, restrictions on food and beverage marketing in schools, and development of farm-to-school programs and school gardens.

 

Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).

Girl eating apple

Feeding America’s Schoolchildren

This policy brief provides public health officials and other school stakeholders with an overview of legal and practical considerations impacting federal school nutrition programs.

3 boys eating lunch

Legal and Practical Considerations

This fact sheet provides an overview of key legal and practical considerations impacting the operation of federal school nutrition programs to support efforts obtain nutritious food for these programs.

Handful of blueberries

Collective Purchasing of Food

This fact sheet provides an overview of collective purchasing approaches used by schools in the operation of federal school nutrition programs.

Girl with broccoli

Resource Compilation

This is a list of key resources providing background information on the operation of federal school nutrition programs, including school procurement practices, collective purchasing, food safety, USDA Foods, Farm to School initiatives, and others.

 

External Resources:

 

Older resources can be found in our Food in Schools resource archive.