The survey from the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project finds all districts statewide are in compliance with federal recommendations. Jessica Donze Black is the project’s director and says Nebraska’s ahead of the curve.
“The standards that came out in 2012 that they’ve now had a couple of years to implement, 100% of Nebraska’s school districts have started serving more fruits, more vegetables, more whole grains, and as a result, they’re all getting more reimbursement for the meals that they serve,” Donze Black says.
In recent months, there were reports of students being unhappy with their menu choices, chucking the healthier foods in the trash. Donze Black says schools are seeing more favorable results when the students are included in the effort.
She says, “They’ve done taste tests, they’ve invited students to be part of the menu-planning process, they’ve served foods in a way that’s more interesting to kids, or give kids more decision-making authority, like having salad bars or make-your-own sandwich bars.”
A recent poll found 72% of parents favor national standards for school meals and just as many support standards for school snacks.
Donze Black says, “Schools will be implementing updated standards that reflect current nutrition science around more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, healthier proteins, lean low-fat dairy and in reasonable portion sizes without too much sodium or sugar or fat and things kids don’t need as much of.”
When fewer tempting treats are available for sale, she says students are more likely to purchase a school meal. That means schools generally break even or increase food service revenue, benefitting children’s health and school budgets at the same time.