Advocating for Healthier School Lunches

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has approved $585 million from funds in the state budget to provide much-needed upgrades to school kitchens in California. This would allow schools to provide freshly prepared, healthy meals to all students and support student health and well-being.

“Schools and staff must have the proper equipment needed in order to serve our students, and funding through the state budget allows us to make significant upgrades to tools and equipment. No child should have to worry about access to a meal, especially during a school day. No child should go hungry,” said Thurmond in his statement.

Nearly 1 in 8 Americans, including 12 million children, suffer from food insecurity.

Last July, California became the first state in the nation to implement a Universal Meals Program under which all children are eligible to receive a free breakfast and lunch regardless of their individual eligibility.

Why are School Lunches so Important?

For many students from low-income communities, these meals make up the bulk of their daily calories. Some children eat both breakfast and lunch at school; therefore, it is of utmost importance that these foods be healthy.

Schools need to follow guidelines for healthy eating. The guidelines try to include more fruits, veggies and grains, while reducing the overall fat content, sugars and sodium. But tight budgets make serving healthier food a challenge, studies have shown that most school meals far exceed the federal recommendation.

Not only that, but the way foods are categorized is questionable. Juice, for example, counts as a fruit serving, and pizza counts as a vegetable…you heard that right! 2 tablespoons of tomato paste are considered a vegetable, so pizza counts as a serving of vegetable!

What is Next for School Lunches?

Due to the staggering rise in childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and other diet-related disease, the Biden administration announced rigorous nutrition standards for school meals.

The new guidelines will be rolled out gradually. In the fall of 2024, school offerings will have to include primarily whole-grain foods. By fall of 2025, there will be a limit imposed on high-sugar products like sweetenedyogurts and cereals, a reduction of weekly sodium limits by 10 percent for school breakfasts and lunches, and limits on added sugars for flavored milks such as chocolate milk.

Thurmond, on his part, continues to advocate for increased funding for farm-to-school programs that support local purchasing and improve the quality and freshness of school meals. He has championed efforts to make sure students in California and across the country can access healthy, nutritious school meals.

Be an Advocate for Healthier School Lunches

Concerned parents should come together and advocate on behalf of their children, the likelihood that decision-makers in a school district will listen and make changes increases if the requests come from a group of parents instead of individuals. So, come together, do your research, and determine what your requests are: Do you want to remove processed food? Do you want your district to consider salad bars? Do you want schools to remove flavored milk?

Once you’ve organized your committee and made a unanimous decision about your primary concerns, it’s time to take action: request a meeting with district administration to make your case.

Source:, Washington Post, US News and CNN