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School Lunch at Sixty: Promoting Healthy Eating Habits
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (June 5, 2006) – This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the National School Lunch Program and the School Nutrition Association. Both began in 1946 and share the goal of ensuring that America’s school children receive healthy school meals.
When the National School Lunch Act was signed into law by president Harry Truman on June 4, 1946, Truman remarked, "no nation is any healthier than its children." In a later speech on the same subject, Truman said "The well nourished school child is a better student. He is healthier and more alert. He is developing good food habits that will benefit him for the rest of his life. In short, he is a better asset for his country in every way." That same year the National School Cafeteria Association and the Conference of Food Service Directors merged to become the School Food Service Association. In 2004 the Association changed its name to the School Nutrition Association.
Sixty years later the 55,000 members of the School Nutrition Association remain committed to President Truman’s promise to our nation’s children. Every school day over 37 million school breakfasts and lunches are served to America’s school children. Provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, these nutritious, balanced meals are provided in age-appropriate serving sizes.
Several recent studies, including those of the U.S. General Accounting Office and Dr. Alice Jo Rainville of Eastern Michigan University, found that the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides children with twice the servings of fruits and vegetables and greater amounts of grains and dairy than children who eat lunch brought from home or who leave school to eat lunch. Dr. Rainville’s study concluded that students who eat school lunches consume less calories from fat and twice as many servings of fruits and vegetables than students who eat a bag lunch.
In a letter to Members of Congress marking the anniversary of the National School Lunch Act, SNA President Ruth Jonen, SFNS wrote, “When President Truman signed the NSLP into law on June 4, 1946, it was to address the under nutrition of children. Now, the program is on the front lines in the fight against obesity. Today’s school lunches meet federal nutrition requirements that limit calories from fat and saturated fat, while providing the fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein and grains that children need to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.”
The nutritious school meals of 2006 include entrée salads, shaker salads and salad bars that may feature locally grown produce; yogurt parfaits and multigrain rolls; reduced fat versions of old favorites; healthy cooking techniques like baking; cafeteria and classroom nutrition education; and much more. This year SNA members will continue to play leadership roles in the development of local school wellness policies that promote nutritious foods and beverages on the entire school campus, not just in the lunchroom. While school nutrition professionals face both new challenges like over-nutrition and ones similar to those of 1946, like under-nutrition, they remain passionate and dedicated to advancing good nutrition for all children.
The School Nutrition Association (formerly ASFSA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. The Association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals. Founded in 1946, SNA is the only association devoted exclusively to protecting and enhancing children’s health and well being through school meals and sound nutrition education.
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