Wendy Estrada-Perez hadn’t tried kale until she received some in a bag of free fruits and vegetables offered at her daughter’s school. “I had always heard about kale,” she says, “but we’re a Mexican family and we eat what we’ve been taught.” Now Estrada-Perez says the leafy green is a regular part of her family’s diet. Kiwi was another new food she was sure her daughter would reject. But when it arrived through a nonprofit called Brighter Bites, her daughter loved it. And she’s not alone. Read more

Imagine a federally funded program that could increase kids’ acceptance of fruits and vegetables, spur them to make healthier choices in the cafeteria, and even lower their body-mass index (BMI) scores, all for a mere $50 to $75 per child. It may sound too good to be true, but for over a decade, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) has been doing just that, simply by providing low-income elementary school kids with fresh fruits and vegetables as their mid-day snack.

Now, actions in Congress could undermine the program’s core purpose, angering both child health advocates and the fresh produce industry. Read more

After what appeared to be a welcome truce in the multi-year battle over school meals, we may need to brace ourselves for a new round of fighting.

Here’s the background. Congress reviews and reauthorizes federal child nutrition programs every five years, and the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) made headlines for ushering in significant changes to those programs. Among many other provisions, it set new, greatly-improved nutritional standards for school meals, created meaningful curbs on school junk food sales, and made access to school meals easier for economically distressed kids. Read more

Around the country, schools have been working to serve more nutritious meals, with less highly processed food and more fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, many of those schools are also stuck with outdated kitchens—the kind best suited to opening cans and reheating frozen chicken nuggets.

But unlike the recent controversy over federal school food nutritional standards, which attracted significant media attention and a lot of highly-charged partisan debate, school kitchen equipment is often an afterthought — even though it’s just as vital. Read more

Update: On August 22, 2016, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued new guidance suggesting that children aged 2 to 18 should eat less than six teaspoons of added sugar a day. For the reasons cited in this piece, school breakfasts still often exceed this slightly higher daily allowance. 

When my kids’ Houston school district instituted a free in-class breakfast program five years ago, it did so for all the right reasons. Over 80 percent of the students were coming from economically disadvantaged homes, and the district understood that hungry children simply can’t learn effectively. And while Houston had long offered free breakfast in the cafeteria before the first school bell, a variety of obstacles—parents’ work schedules, late school buses, even feelings of shame and stigma—had kept a significant number of hungry kids away. Read more

As millions of students around the nation return to school cafeterias this month, Congress will begin to make some important decisions about what exactly those students will be eating in the years to come.

The “Child Nutrition Reauthorization” (CNR) takes place every five years and shapes federal legislation that authorizes and funds the National School Lunch Program and other key child nutrition programs. But the CNR involves more than just pro forma approval of these long-standing programs. It also gives lawmakers an opening to review—and potentially alter—child nutrition policy. Read more