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Healthy Schools

Many children consume at least half of their meals at school, and for many children, food served at school may be the only food they regularly eat. With more than 30 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program and more than 12 million participating in the School Breakfast Program, good nutrition at school is more important than ever. Let’s Move! is committed to providing healthier foods in our nation’s schools, and encourages all schools to provide school breakfast.

In 2012, we accomplished a critical step on the road to deliver healthier food to our nation’s school children when the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new rules that will boost the nutritional quality of the meals eaten by school children every day. The rules represent the first major revision of school meal standards in more than 15 years and make sure our kids' lunches and breakfasts will have more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and less fat and sodium and set sensible calorie limits based on the age of children being served. 

Based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, the new school meals include these changes: 

  • 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.

Principles, teachers, school nutrition workers and parents can help make schools healthier places to learn by providing quality food and teaching children about the importance of nutrition and embracing a healthy active lifestyle. Looking for ways you can get involved in the healthy changes happening in the cafeteria? Check out the following toolkits from the US Department of Agriculture's new resource for school meals, The School Day Just Got Healthier:

HealthierUS School Challenge

The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) establishes rigorous standards for schools' food quality, participation in meal programs, physical activity opportunities, and nutrition education. This nationwide program has spurred schools that meet these standards all across the country to transform their environments into places where healthy eating and physical activity is experienced and learned. Schools that are doing the very best work to keep kids healthy are recognized and even receive monetary incentives. 

In February 2010, USDA and the First Lady called on stakeholders to double the number of Challenge schools - a milestone reached in June 2011 – and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that. The First Lady announced on February 10, 2012 that 2,862 schools have now met the HealthierUS School Challenge, surpassing the goals of this key component of her Let's Move! initiative.

Chefs Move to Schools

To help out, we've launched Chefs Move to Schools to match schools with a local chef as school chefs work hard to make meals nutritious and delicious. Chefs can help make eating fruits and vegetables fun, too, so that kids have positive experiences learning to eat healthier foods. Learn more on our Chefs Move to Schools website.

School Salad Bars

Salad bars at schools mean that kids will have the choice of fresh vegetables and fruit every day and learn great, healthy eating habits for life. Eating a salad a day is one simple, effective, easy step toward a healthier nation. The First Lady has challenged America to put 6,000 salad bars into schools. In response to Mrs. Obama’s challenge, leaders across sectors have stepped up to help support salad bars in schools through  Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, an initiative of the Chef Ann Foundation, National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, United Fresh Start Foundation, and Whole Foods Market. As a nation, we need to continue to support salad bars in schools. Salad bars have been shown to increase intake and acceptance of fruits and vegetables for kids, and they’re an effective method of implementing the new school meal requirements of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  For more information about offering a salad bar as part of school lunch programs, visit the  Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools website.