ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Preparing healthy school meals and offering a friendly greeting are all in a day’s work for more than 250,000 child nutrition employees in the nation’s 99,000 school cafeterias and kitchens.
The non-profit School Nutrition Association celebrates this professional commitment with Child Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week, May 4 – 8.
The week is an opportunity for parents, students, school staff and communities to thank those who provide healthy school meals to more than 30 million children each school day.
School nutrition employees must balance many roles and follow numerous federal, state and local regulations to ensure safe and healthy meals are available in schools. They are trained sanitation and food safety experts and must manage financially self-sufficient programs. School nutrition professionals use their creativity to make the cafeteria a fun and welcoming place all year long and perform their jobs each day because they care passionately about the children they serve.
The importance and nutritional value of school meals are well documented. For many children, school lunch is the most important and nutrient-rich meal of their day. Children depend upon school lunch for a third to half of their daily nutritional intake. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that “school meals are healthy and children who eat school meals consume more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy items than children who do not eat school meals.”
In a 2008 Back to School Trend study, school nutrition professionals provided specific examples of common improvements made to school meals this school year. Among the most popular responses were:
Increasing the availability of whole grain items (85 percent)
Reducing/limiting trans fat content (82 percent)
Limiting fat content of a la carte/vending items (72 percent)
Reducing or limiting the amount of added sugar in foods (70 percent)
The School Nutrition Association is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. The association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals.
SNA is the only association devoted exclusively to protecting and enhancing children’s health and well being through school meals and sound nutrition education.