SNA: Schools serving healthier options despite rising costs

AUGUST 26—According to a new report from the School Nutrition Association, school districts are serving more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products despite of rising costs. Schools are also reducing added sodium and sugar in foods, according to findings in SNA’s Back to School Trends Survey.

The survey also found the following:

· 95% of school districts are increasing offerings of whole-grain products

· 91% are increasing the availability of fresh fruits or vegetables

· 69% of districts are reducing or eliminating sodium in foods

· 66% of districts are reducing or limiting added sugar

· 51% of districts are increasing vegetarian options

· 63% of districts with à la carte services are implementing nutrition standards

· 65% are limiting the size and/or weight of their à la carte food and beverage offerings

· 67% of districts with vending services are increasing the availability of healthier beverages in vending machines

Economic concerns will continue to be a challenge for child nutrition departments, according to the survey. Seventy-nine percent of districts surveyed said they expect food costs to increase in the coming school year, and 65% anticipate that the federal reimbursement for free and reduced-priced meals will fail to cover the cost of producing those meals. Eighty-four percent of districts reported an increase in free and reduced-priced meal participation categories.

The survey was culled from responses from 538 school nutrition directors in 44 states.

In other SNA news, the association has launched a new Web site, TrayTalk.org, which is designed to spotlight school meal successes and provide parents with information about healthy school meals. The site will also feature “School Nutrition Success Stories,” which spotlights two child nutrition programs each month. The first spotlight is on Chesapeake Public Schools’ healthy makeover.