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New School Meals! The First Lady Welcomes Kids Back to School

Watch a Back to School Message from First Lady Michelle Obama about the improvements to school meals this year. 

Watch First Lady Michelle Obama's full remarks here.

What's new with school meals this year?

The school day just got healthier! This year, the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act will be implemented in schools across the country to improve the meals that 32 million children eat each day. This is groundbreaking legislation signed by the President on December 13, 2010, to improve the food we serve to our kids in school. This legislation provides assurance to parents that our kids are getting the same kind of balance and nutrition that they get at home. Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is a great win for our nation’s kids – and their parents.

Thanks to new school breakfast and lunch meal standards, schools meals now do a better job of giving children the healthy food they need. The new school meals have:

  • More whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; low-fat milk dairy products; and less sodium and fat. 
  • The right portion. Menus are planned for grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 and will demonstrate to your child the right size portions.
  • Additional funding will be made available to schools that meet the new standards. Schools will be reimbursed an additional 6 cents for each lunch they serve in accordance with the new standards.

What should parents to know about as their kids start school?

Encourage your child to check out these new meals and find their favorites. Kids may consume up to half their calories in schools, so we must work together to make the school day healthier with nutritious food, more physical activity, and nutrition education. It’s so important that we support the new school meals for our kids. Well-nourished kids are ready to learn and do better in class. When we give kids plenty of healthy food choices and regular physical activity at school, they learn healthier habits for life.

You can get involved at your school to keep the good work going, too. To encourage healthy eating and exercise outside of the cafeteria, parents can get their kids’ school involved in the Healthier US Schools program, which gives special recognition to schools that are changing whole school environments to support healthy choices, teaching kids about nutrition, and giving them opportunities to get active during the school day. 

Tips for parents to get the school year off to a healthy start: 

  • Parents can play a role in helping kids adjust to new foods, learning where food comes from, and building a healthy plate at home.
  • Cooking at home is a great, affordable way to add healthy food to our diet at the personal level. Ask your kids about what they had for lunch in the cafeteria and try those new fruits and vegetables in your own kitchen.
  • Try new foods with your kids to encourage them to try new foods, too.
  • Eat meals together at home and enjoy fruits, vegetables and whole grains as a family.
  • Grocery shop with your children and let them make healthy choices with you down the grocery aisles.
  • You can also grow your own healthy food right at home! You can plant herbs on your windowsill or vegetables on your porch or in your backyard.  Gardening is not only affordable, but it can connect us to where our food comes from and help us make healthier choices. Your kids may be seeing the very same vegetables from your garden in their school meals!
  • Looking for more ideas? Download this toolkit for parents

Marissa Duswalt, RD, is the Let's Move! Associate Director for Policy and Events