SNA survey reveals latest school meals practices
A national survey of school meal program directors finds school districts are utilizing more tactics – holding student taste tests, locally sourcing produce and scheduling recess before lunch – to increase student consumption of healthy school meals and combat food waste, the School Nutrition Association said Tuesday.
The findings are part of SNA’s “School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2018,” a book that is available for purchase.
Although SNA has complained in the past about some of the meal standards established under the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, the report says school meals meet federal nutrition standards, and schools are working to identify appealing recipes and increase choices for students so they are more likely to eat their meals.
According to SNA, survey results reveal:
▪ 74.5 percent have implemented student taste tests or sampling.
▪ 67.6 percent offer salad or produce bars.
▪ Nearly half (48 percent) of responding districts have schools that have scheduled recess before lunch, which SNA says is a proven strategy for increasing consumption.
▪ 57.4 percent currently implement nutrition education, with another 18.3 percent planning or considering it.
School meal programs continue to face challenges when students who are not enrolled in the free meal program lack adequate funds to pay for their meals, SNA said. The survey found widespread unpaid meal debt, even as districts employ multiple proactive tactics to prevent or minimize student meal charges:
▪ 75.3 percent of districts report having unpaid student meal debt at the end of the 2016/17 school year.
▪ 40.2 percent report that the number of students without adequate funds increased last school year.