We all remember the questionable food we were served at school. Today’s kids have it way better — they’re given a variety of options of fruits and vegetables (instead of, you know, canned whatever).
According to a recent USDA survey evaluating “Farm to School” initiatives, more than 10,000 school districts purchased nearly $600 million in food produced locally in the 2013-14 academic year. The Atlantic reports that since the first Farm to School census, in 2011-12, the amount of money spent on local food has doubled. More than half the surveyed campuses also said that increasing local food integration is in the plan for the future.
The Atlantic notes that the data arrives as Congress debates whether to renew the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and went into effect in 2012. The program whipped school lunch standards into better shape, requiring more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to be offered. The Atlantic points out that the School Nutrition Association, a group that represents providers of school meals, however, is not on board with the law, claiming “the standards have reduced participation in the school lunch program, are costing districts financially and have led to more food being thrown away because students don’t like it.”
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack tells The Atlantic that time is also a factor in supporting healthier food choices for kids. Lunch periods often are short and are intertwined with recess. When you have only 20 minutes to eat and play, tater tots look a lot better than that orange.
That all said, school lunch seems to be heading in the right direction. The meals these days are much healthier than the bean and cheese burritos of yesterday, although we do wish they were more like what the South Korean and French kids are eating.