Mission is for students to eat healthy every day

Published 10:04 am Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What is the goal of Food and Nutrition Services in Austin Public Schools? Our mission is food and nutrition for every student, every day. I think most parents would agree that they want their kids to be healthy. And part of being healthy is eating balanced, nourishing meals, which, by no coincidence is the aim of our federal school nutrition standards.

During the times of hearing how some schools are opting out of these federal school nutrition standards, we as a district are choosing to do the right thing: to fuel the learning of our students with the right nutrients and the right amounts of foods. Here’s a look at the standards:

• All grains offered at breakfast or lunch must be whole grain rich.  Whole grain rich means that over 50 percent of the grain in the food must be from a whole grain. Whole grains provide fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and vitamin E. Medical evidence is clear that whole grains reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. And while these may sound like adult disease issues, we learn how to eat when we are young. And our school cafeterias are a part of that learning.

• Fruits and vegetables are offered at all meals. This isn’t a new concept, but one that bears repeating. Students at all schools have the option of taking a fresh fruit, a canned fruit and a vegetable at each meal. When students take all three of these options, and eat them, they will feel fuller because the additional volume, fiber and nutrients in these foods. Fruits and vegetables have all sorts of nutrients that most Americans don’t get enough of, and encouraging these foods while at school leads to healthier habits and healthier lives.

• Sodium restrictions are in place for breakfast and lunch, and each year will progressively lower. Why worry about sodium? Sodium contributes to high blood pressure, which contributes to heart disease and stroke. Again, our district’s mission statement is “Engaging and Empowering All Learners for Life” which includes providing the right foods so students are empowered to make the right food choices for life.

• Prior to the standards, meals did not have a calorie maximum. Now with the standards, meals are “right-sized” and reflect the appropriate portions and calories students need. School meals are designed to meet only a portion of a student’s nutritional and energy needs over the course of a day. For example, a school lunch provides as many as 850 calories for a high school student, which is sufficient to meet the recommended daily energy intake at lunch for most high school students.

The Food and Nutrition team at Austin Public Schools is committed to making positive changes to align with these standards and we value student and parent feedback. Follow us on Twitter @isd492food.