Healthy School Meals

Providing students with healthy meals at school is a vital part of food security for children and families.

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Child hunger won’t end with COVID: Congress must extend nutrition waivers.

For tens of millions of children, school meals are an essential component of the school day. Children get up to half of their daily calories at school; for many, schools are the only consistent source of nutritious meals. School meals are often the healthiest foods children will have access to on a given day, and research shows that healthier meals lower the risk of obesity among children growing up in poverty while helping children succeed in the classroom. RWJF Senior Program Officer Jamie Bussel and Luis Guardia, president, Food Research & Action Center, explain that school meals are not merely a convenience, but a lifeline for the families that rely on them each day.   

For decades, school meals have been helping to prevent hunger and provide nutrients that kids need to learn and thrive. These meals are essential to tens of millions of children and families, especially those living furthest from economic opportunity.

To address hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed relief measures that enabled the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer school meals to all students free of charge (also known as universal school meals). A strong body of research shows that offering healthy, free school meals to all students is a sound and vital investment that benefits kids, families and schools. Yet this policy is set to expire on June 30, 2022.

Measures that have helped schools serve kids and families in need during the pandemic provide a long-term roadmap for modernizing and improving school meal programs. Ensuring that all students have access to healthy school meals at no cost is a critical strategy for helping children grow up healthy, lifting families out of poverty and advancing health equity.

Healthy School Meals for All

School meals are a lifeline for millions of children, helping to prevent hunger and ensuring families have enough to eat, especially among those living furthest from economic opportunity.

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Why We Need Healthy School Meals for All

Healthy School Meals for All offers students the stability they need as they continue adapting to pandemic-driven change amidst ongoing challenges. Now is not the time to let this policy expire.

To Help Recover From COVID-19, We Need Universal Free School Meals

For tens of millions of children, school isn’t just a place to learn, but a place where they can depend on receiving healthy meals.

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A Focus on Healthy Children

Programs to ensure that all families have the resources they need to foster healthy development from their child’s earliest years.

Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

Series//Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program

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A student looks at fruit in a school cafeteria.
  1. A student looks at fruit in a school cafeteria.

    Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

    This video series highlights how schools participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program are transforming to provide healthier meals and snacks for their students.
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  3. Students at Anne Frank Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pa., describe some of their favorite healthy snacks and share their thoughts about why eating healthy is important.
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Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

This video series highlights how schools participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program are transforming to provide healthier meals and snacks for their students.
This video series highlights how schools participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program are transforming to provide healthier meals and snacks for their students.

Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

This video series highlights how schools participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program are transforming to provide healthier meals and snacks for their students.

School Meals are Getting Healthier

The nutritional quality of most foods and beverages served and sold in schools improved dramatically between the 2009–10 and 2014–15 school years, according to findings from Healthy Eating Research.

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The Six-Ingredient Recipe for Universal School Meals: Lessons from California

During the summer of 2021, California became the first state in the country to pass a state budget that includes universal (free) school meals for all 6 million of its public school students. Experts share the six key ingredients that helped them achieve this win.

Read more on stateofchildhoodobesity.org