Articles and Information from GA Foods

Why We Love School Lunch (And You Should, Too!)

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Dec 17, 2014 8:35:00 AM

Bringing lunch from home

When my son was younger, he was a picky eater. He didn’t like to eat the school-prepared lunches…he always wanted to bring lunch from home. In our minds, I think we both thought his packed lunches would be like this:


But in reality, being a working mom with a busy family, his lunches looked more like this:


Some of you may think this lunch looks pretty healthy, after all, there is an apple in that picture!  But in reality, lunches brought from home are less nutritious than lunches purchased from schools.  

National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program has been in place since 1946.  Congress created it after an investigation into the health of young men rejected in the World War II draft showed a connection between physical deficiencies and childhood malnutrition. Since then multiple studies have shown that children who participate in school dietary programs have superior nutritional intakes compared to those that do not participate.  Proper nutrition improves a child’s behavior and school performance.

In 2012, new nutrition standards were implemented by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for school meals. The new standards require school cafeterias to offer more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and to limit sodium, calories and unhealthy fats.  Grain-based desserts, like cookies, have been limited to twice a week and must be whole grain rich.  While there was some resistance from students on the healthier meals, studies have shown that students’ intake has improved with the new guidelines.

School meals that rock!

School foodservice directors have become creative in delivering a healthy school lunch menu that appeals to kids…I love the site,, because they showcase all of the healthy school lunches served in school cafeterias. You can check out actual school meal trays here, but below is an example from their site of a tray that meets the new USDA standards.  



Are school meals the healthiest option?

If you still aren’t sure that school meals are the healthiest option for your family, a new study from Virginia Tech University might change your mind.  The researchers compared school lunches with those children brought from home.  Here is what they found:

  • Calories, carbohydrates, fat, saturated fat, and sugar were higher in packed lunches.
  • Protein, fiber, vitamin A, and calcium where higher in school lunches.  (Sodium was also higher in school lunches. However, new sodium standards for school lunches are being phased in, so this is expected to improve.)
  • Packed lunches had more dessert items, savory snacks, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • School meals had more milk, fruits and vegetables.

Be a good example

If your children are like my son and resistant to eating lunch from the cafeteria, here are some tips from the USDA:

  • Join your child for lunch in the school cafeteria
  • Let your child see you eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • When your child gets home from school, ask them what he or she ate for lunch
  • Grocery shop with your child and talk about where foods come from
  • Offer new foods one at a time and always with something your child likes with that food.  Discuss how the food smells, tastes, and feels.

Childhood health and nutrition is important to GA Foods.  For more information on nutrition and children, read this blog post.

GA Foods Child Nutrition Programs

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Topics: Child Nutrition, Healthy Lunch, Lunch from Home, School Lunch

An Unhealthy Generation: The Problem of Childhood Obesity

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Jul 31, 2014 2:22:00 PM

 Childhood-Obesity-Infographic(Click image for full-size PDF of Infographic)

Approximately one-third of the children and teens in the United States are overweight or obese.  While this is a staggering statistic, it isn’t just kids in the US.  The World Health Organization recently announced if the current trend continues, there will be 70 million obese children in the world by 2025.


Health Effects

The health concerns related to childhood obesity are alarming. Children are now being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and bone and joint problems.  Previously, these diseases were prevalent only in adults.  In addition to health issues, children experience social and psychological consequences of being overweight or obese. 

The impact of childhood obesity is exponential since obese children are more likely to become obese adults. Long-term health effects of obesity include cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  



Start Early

The earlier we encourage positive health changes in children, the more likely those healthy habits will last a lifetime.  Families, communities, schools, and childcare settings all play a part in developing healthy behaviors in children.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.


Be a Good Role Model

Kids learn by modeling the behaviors of others, so set a good example.  Let your children see you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.  Encourage physical activity - walk, run and play with your children.


Maureen-GarnerTry Something New

Offer your children a wide variety of nutritious foods.  Don’t be afraid to try something new or different, but be patient.  It may take several exposures to the new food before your child actually tries it.  Young children love to explore, so encourage them to talk about the food’s smell, texture, shape and color. 


Make It Fun

Children love to help.  Let them rinse the vegetables or set the table.  Cut foods into shapes with cookie cutters.  Have them create their own snack recipe.


More Ideas

In this short video, Claudia Mendoza, a preschool teacher from Los Angeles, shares classroom activities that are designed to teach young children healthy habits targeted at preventing childhood obesity. 



GA Foods Child Nutrition Programs

GA Foods offers nutrtion programs for...

See How GA Foods is Making a Difference in Children's Lives


Read More

Topics: Obesity, Child Nutrition

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