School lunches are a critical part of everyday life that many take for granted, not realizing that for some, meals are not guaranteed. Lunches are essential for every student’s health and well-being, especially those from low-income families who struggle to make ends meet. This is why school nutrition programs have become such an integral part of our educational system—and what we do as a purveyor of packaging.
The National School Lunch Program helps children across the country receive a healthy, nutritious lunch every school day. Almost 95 percent of schools in the United States participate in the program—this means that over 30 million children are fed on a regular school day. The National School Lunch Program is the second largest food and nutrition assistance program in the nation. The first largest is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as EBT, which is designed to provide for those who can’t afford meals while stimulating the economy.
School nutrition programs help students receive the nutrition they need to learn and function at a high level during their school day and beyond. Studies show that these programs provide a range of positive benefits, from decreasing food security to lowering obesity rates and improving health.
Read on to learn about some of the incredible benefits of school nutrition programs.
Reduced Food Insecurity
Nationwide studies show that receiving meals via school nutrition programs reduced food insecurity by 3.8 percent or more. Meanwhile, paying for school lunches can lead to higher food insecurity across entire low-income households. Other data shows that food insecurity is higher in the summer, when children are not in school, and therefore, not receiving free lunches. Reduced food insecurity has a significant positive effect on children’s mental health and can have a marked impact on their future.
The new school meal nutrition standards set by the National School Lunch Program promotes healthier eating by offering nutrient-rich meals that include fruits, vegetables and other beneficial foods. School meals are required to contain at least one third of the recommended daily dietary allowance of necessary nutrients, including whole grains and produce.
Other requirements include that a maximum of 30 percent of the calories in each meal are obtained from fat, with less than 10 percent from saturated fat. These nutrition standards are key to helping students learn how to eat better and are often healthier than packed meals brought from home. Studies conducted after the National School Lunch Program’s standards were raised during the 2012-2013 school year showed that a large segment of lunches packed at home for pre-school and kindergarten students contained higher amounts of sugar, calories, fat and saturated fat than meals provided by school lunch programs. Conversely, they were less rich in healthy, fundamental nutrients such as fiber, protein, calcium and vitamin A.
Better Overall Health & Decreased Obesity Rates
School nutrition programs have a wide-ranging impact on children’s overall health. National studies have shown that receiving meals via school nutrition programs lowered obesity rates by 17 percent or more and reduced poor health by 29 percent or more. Often times, the quality of meals and nutrients is better and more well-rounded than packed lunches, which boosts physical health. Research shows that when students eat school lunches, they consume more healthy nutrients such as vegetables, fruit and milk, and eat less desserts and sugary snacks. School meals also play an essential role in students’ readiness to learn and mental health. The security of knowing their meals are provided for helps students focus on school and enjoying their day, resulting in improved moods, and ultimately, better mental health.
At The Platinum Packaging Group, we are thrilled to be a part of the school nutrition programs that have such a positive impact on our nation’s children in need. Our products help in the preparation of meals for these children.