As the saying goes, the most important meal of the day is breakfast. That said, for a child going through primary education, it’s vital that they eat lunch as well to bolster their strength and stay focused throughout the day.
Still, there are many primary school students that go without breakfast or lunch. With inconsistent or unhealthy meals, a student is more likely to behave poorly and less likely to be able to focus on learning. It is easy to dismiss students with behavioral issues as being troublemakers, but often, issues like these have more underlying problems resulting from a problematic home life. Initiatives such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) have been created in the interest of promoting nutrition and providing meal opportunities to underserved students.
The NSLP is certainly the largest proponent of nutrition in schools. Started by the USDA Food And Nutrition Service (FNS), the program was created in 1946 to combat hunger in schools. Even then, the effects of a poor diet on education were well-known, and cities such as Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and Cleveland pioneered their own systems before the NSLP.
They quickly realized that the problem was not simply poverty. Even among better-fed students, they found that nutrition was part of the problem. Modern America has an odd relationship with health food, in which better culinary options are often less affordable. The NSLP set out to provide students with meals that were not only easy to afford but healthy as well. Even today, the USDA still works to improve the program, studying diets and how they are affected by factors such as income, ethnic background, and trends in food. Federal requirements set standards for nutrition in meals provided by the NSLP.
These standards emphasize the need for fresh produce in student meals. Because of this, the FNS works to establish partnerships with local farmers to provide schools with fruits and vegetables without the need to purchase from a third party. Even with this, provisions are made to ensure that schools get some degree of flexibility when it comes to planning and serving student meals while still providing the necessary levels of nutrition.
However, simply providing meals is not the only reason why the NSLP is valuable to schools across the US. In the same way that many school experiences are designed to educate children on both professional subjects and build life skills, this program can also build a foundation for a future of nutrition and making informed decisions about food. As part of the program, nutritionists are sent to schools to pass on information to staff about proper eating habits for children. On the logistic side of things, equipment can be provided for better preparing, storing, and serving meals.
For years, the NSLP has worked to both promote good nutrition in young students and serve low cost or free meals for those that may be unable to afford them. Given the physical and psychological benefits of eating well, this program is instrumental in providing all students a productive environment in which to learn and grow.