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Despite Funding Challenges, School Programs Increase Nutritious Options

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Erik Peterson
703-739-3900 ext. 124

Despite Funding Challenges, School Programs Increase Nutritious Options

School Nutrition Association 2007 Trends Report finds districts offering more whole grains, healthier beverages and more fresh fruits and vegetables

ALEXANDRIA Va. (October 16, 2007)  Parents visiting their child’s school cafeteria during National School Lunch Week are seeing more whole grains, a greater amount of fresh fruits and vegetables and a wider selection of healthful beverages.  The School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) 2007 Trends Report, released today, found that increased availability of whole grain products is the most commonly reported policy/effort in place and that more school districts are implementing food and nutrition policies, even as the costs to do so increase -- 85% of respondents report experiencing increased food, labor, gas and transportation costs.

Released annually, the Trends Report is based on a survey of 200 school districts nationwide conducted in July 2007. The Report provides evidence of the continuing efforts underway in America's schools to promote healthy eating habits among children. Other policies in place among a majority of districts include increasing the availability of healthier beverages in vending machines (81%), reducing/limiting trans fat content (74%), limiting fat content of a la carte/vending items (73%) and increasing the availability of fresh fruits/vegetables on a la carte lines and/or vending machines (69%).  Policy deployment is increased for nearly every area from past years, including the percentage of districts with a policy that limits the fat content of a la carte and/or vending items rising to 73% from 38% in 2004.

The Report also describes new efforts taken by school nutrition programs for the current school year, including increased offerings (and a greater variety) of fruits, vegetables, whole grain products; a consistent and continual emphasis on wellness as schools move forward with the implementation of their wellness policies; limiting portion/serving sizes; developing and implementing nutrition education programs for students, teachers and staff; and using alternative preparation techniques, such as elimination of deep-frying.

While the record of school nutrition professionals demonstrates significant progress toward promoting a healthy childhood weight, the financial implications for self-sustaining school nutrition programs remains a concern. The Report found costs for food, labor and gas/transportation are clearly affecting school foodservice operations — about 85% of the respondents report that their program experienced increases in these costs last school year.  Most districts (63.5%) state that the National School Lunch Program reimbursement was not sufficient for their district to cover the costs of producing a meal. The Report makes clear that additional funding is needed from the local, state or federal level for school nutrition programs to offer more nutrient-dense meals.

The Trends Report release comes during National School Lunch Week, which was established in 1963 by a proclamation by President John F. Kennedy.  It is designed to help raise awareness of and garner support for the role that school foodservice and nutrition programs play in the lives of America’s children. 

SNA, the School Nutrition Association, 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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