This year my daughter started kindergarten. And honestly one of my biggest concerns was if she was going to be hungry throughout the day. Going from daycare and preschool to kindergarten is a huge adjustment for various reasons. I was particularly concerned about the change in foods available to her and how much time she would have to eat. The thought of her having fifteen minutes to eat lunch and no snacks was a little scary!
In preparation for her first day, we went shopping for a backpack. She was amazed not only at the selection of back packs, but the selection of the lunch bags. I was pretty shocked myself! Also, the books we read to prepare her for the first day of school all referenced the character bringing a lunch from home. Based on back to school shopping and children’s books, one would think that bringing a lunch from home was the norm. But in reality, approximately 80% of all students enrolled in Iowa schools participate in school meals each day. 1
With that in mind, I wanted her to try school meals for the first week. This would give her the opportunity to learn the process while everyone else did. Every day after school I ask her what she had for lunch. As the weeks have gone by she has been excited to share with me the fruits and vegetables she has chosen and even eaten at school. It’s a simple thing I do each day that often opens up a conversation about her entire day, which I was having a hard time getting her to share. “I tried zucchini slices today and really liked them!” “Oh, and I was picked the best singer of the day!” It’s fun to see how a simple conversation about school lunch can really lead to a great conversation with a 5 year old! She has expanded the things she will eat at home and I truly believe it is connected to her positive experience with school meals.
National School Lunch Week is this week and is an observance to celebrate the benefits of healthy school lunches! School meals are doing a better job of giving your kids the healthy foods they need. Help your child check out school meals and discover what they like. Here are some tips to help your children eat healthy foods at school and at home:
- Make time to join your child for lunch in the school cafeteria. It will provide you a first-hand experience of school meals and grow a deeper appreciation for teachers, school staff, and nutrition staff.
- Explain to your child the options they have each day at school for lunch.
- When your child gets home from school, ask what he/she ate for lunch.
- Eat meals at home with your child as much as you can. Let your child see you eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy.
- Provide some of the new foods offered in the school cafeteria at home. Some examples include: whole grain foods, spinach, cherry tomatoes, black beans, sweet potatoes, and zucchini slices.
- Take your child grocery shopping with you and talk to them about where foods come from. Let your children make healthy purchases while at the store.
For more information including how to get involved at your school, school lunch myths, healthy snack ideas, visit: http://schoolmeals.educateiowa.gov.
1 Iowa School Nutrition Association Annual Child Nutrition Report, March 2013