What You Can Do For National School Lunch Week | Earth Day Network

It’s National School Lunch Week. Each school day, 30 million children are served lunch at school, with more than five billion meals served each year. For many kids, the food they eat at school provides their main source of nutrition. As Americans, we’re proud of the National School Lunch Program founded in 1945 to ensure that all students during their developmental years receive a nutritious lunch, regardless of their ability to pay.

For decades, Earth Day Network has worked to make school lunches healthier. In 2010, Earth Day Network was part of a coalition to fund the DC Healthy Foods Act, which became a model for the federal Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act; this key legislation passed with bi-partisan support to increase access to healthier food, especially for low-income kids.

Results of the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act in 2018 include:

  • Kids are eating 16 percent more fruits and vegetables.
  • Kids are eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, with less sugar, fat, and sodium.
  • Kid-friendly options like fruit smoothies and salad bars are popping up in more school cafeterias.
  • School lunch revenue is even up.

But there’s much more to do. Today we know that food choices have a huge impact on the planet and that we can’t save ourselves from the worst impacts of climate change without a radical reduction in animal product consumption, especially red meat. By introducing school kids to tasty plant-based foods, schools can make a big difference.

A new report from Friends of the Earth shows how pioneering schools like the Oakland Unified School District are using their massive purchasing power to provide more plant-based, climate-friendly food. In the process, they’ve reduced their carbon footprint by 14% and saved $42,000 over two years.

Lee County Public Schools in Florida reduced its carbon emissions by 2.3 million pounds, simply by replacing a beef dish with a soy-based recipe eight times a year. This one recipe swap had the same environmental impact as not burning 1.2 million pounds of coal or 120,000 gallons of gas.

To make school food more sustainable, here are a few things you can do: