The National School Lunch Program
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As a new school year begins, how are you supporting the success of schools in your county? The National School Lunch Program is an important part of the school day for most of the students across North Carolina. More than half of parents in our state lack the financial resources to provide school lunches for their children without assistance, according to federal data, a situation that has worsened in recent years.
Most children in North Carolina participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which provides no cost and reduced-cost school lunches to eligible families. However, lack of knowledge about the program or forgetting to reapply each year are the biggest reasons that children miss out on the meals.
How do no cost or reduced cost lunches help? One lunch meets one-third of the daily nutritional needs of most children. Healthy eating patterns translate into academic performance, making these school meals a win-win. There are additional benefits for the school based on the number of students who receive no cost or reduced cost lunches, including reduced costs on technology services, testing fees, and college application fees.
Students at schools participating in NSLP can learn more about food with additional programs that are supported through USDA, like SNAP-Ed and EFNEP. Many Extension Educators are involved in these programs across the state and work closely with their School Health Advisory Committees (SHAC) to implement strategies and programs to support healthy eating and physical activity in their classrooms.
In Brunswick County, the FCS Agent, EFNEP Educator, and 4-H Program Assistant partnered with the county school system to provide training to PE teachers on “Creating Healthy Food and Physical Activity Environments in Schools” and introduce nutrition and health curriculum offered by Cooperative Extension. One result from this informative day is that all Brunswick County Elementary Schools have colorful signage and floor clings that encourage healthy choices.
The Steps to Health Color Me Heathy program encourages childrento experience and fruits and vegetables through exploration using taste, smell, sight, and touch. Fun songs with focused messages encourage children to get up and be active! To further the educational experience, many sites have incorporated the annual NC Crunch Day to their calendars in October. Some schools have started gardens where children learn how vegetables grow.
Nutrition Education, Farm to School Programs, and enhanced built environments around food and nutrition are all important parts of teaching students about food, how it is grown, and the importance of fruits and vegetables in our lives. Building partnerships with these groups is a great way to help those in your county make the healthy choice the easy choice.