Milford School District will promote National School Lunch Week, held throughout the nation October 13 through 17. As part of this year’s theme, “Get In The Game With School Lunch”, school officials will celebrate the healthy options added to school lunches as part of the USDA’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. School Nutritionist Bev Harp and her staff have decided to use the promotion to encourage students to try new fruits and vegetables and educate them on making healthy lifestyle choices.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program offered at 100,000 public and non‐profit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provided nutritionally balanced, low‐cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day in 2012. In 1998, Congress expanded the National School Lunch Program to include reimbursement for snacks served to children in afterschool educational and enrichment programs to include children through 18 years of age.
During school lunches from October 13 through 17 students will have the opportunity to experience healthy food options that they may not have tried before including Watermelon Cucumber Salad and Vegetable Chili. Not only focused on healthy food during the National School Lunch Week, Ms. Harp says that her team at all six Milford schools advocates for the benefits of making smart dietary choices at home too. On the front lines, cafeteria workers engage with students educating them about their lunch options and encourage them to try new dishes. She states that sometimes it is as simple as presenting certain foods in a unique way.
“Kids eat with their eyes, if it looks good they will try it,” commented Harp. “We educate and introduce new things to the students and hope that they bring those healthy decisions home and introduce those skills to the whole family.”
Ms. Harp states that there are several things that families can do at home , school and at work to start the healthy choice process when it comes to meals. Among those tips is watching portion control, limiting condiments, cutting back on drinks that contain many calories and increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Portion control and limiting condiments is very important, you can eat healthy foods but too much of those foods may not be good for your overall health,” said Harp. “Even if you decide to eat what seems to be a healthy salad, too much dressing can cancel out the benefits of eating that salad.”
Introducing healthy food choices to children can be a challenge, says Harp, but paying attention to the trends can be a helpful tool. School Lunches in Milford have included salad shakers and fruit parfaits to increase the likeliness that students will try something new.
This year’s program not only focuses on eating healthy by pairing those decisions with staying physically active. Partnering with the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Council and the National Football League (NFL), students will be involved with daily activities that promote staying active. Emphasizing that students should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, the national movement aims to fight childhood obesity by empowering kids to take control of their own health.
“It is all about helping them to make healthy decisions,” stated Harp. “We are helping them to understand the important combination of exercise and eating healthy. The national health problem starts with education and encouragement at the local level.”