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How Schools Are Changing Lunch Menus

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Years ago, school lunches were pretty much the same no matter which school you attended. Wednesdays were pizza day, perhaps—and the pizzas were those cardboard-like rectangles. Maybe Mondays were for Salisbury steak with the grease-laden gravy. And there were always chocolate-peanut butter bars available for dessert.

But, all of this is changing now—and for the better. Schools are adapting to the times, trying to incorporate more local foods so as to support nearby businesses and farms. They are also beginning to serve foods more seasonally, paying attention to which foods are in season and putting them in the lunches at those times—for example, no watermelon in December in New York.

Most of all, though, the schools are bringing more nutrition to their lunches. With childhood obesity rates on the rise--as well as more and more instances of children being diagnosed with diseases and conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol—schools have decided that they need to join the fight against junk foods.

There are many ways in which schools are adding nutrition to the school lunches. Some are adding salad bars or serving various salads to add vegetables to the menu. Some have yogurt or fruit as dessert options, rather than traditional sweets. And some are changing their cooking methods—instead of frying meats or cooking with a lot of oil and fat, schools are baking, broiling, and even barbequing.

Drink choices in schools have changed as well. No more vending machines full of sugary sodas and juice drinks. Instead, most schools are offering low fat milk and 100% juices, in addition to bottled water.

Of course, not all schools have jumped on the nutrition bandwagon yet—many still have a good deal to learn. But steps are being taken to change how kids eat at school, so things are at least moving in the right direction.

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