I have to admit that I’ve been out of the school lunch loop for quite some time now. And I seem to recall that it wasn’t too long ago that many schools, faced with school lunch budgets that were feeling the squeeze, were turning toward more fast-food type menus to try to encourage participation and sales.
But a new study out last week says that schools are making a big move toward healthier meals for school kids who are increasingly dealing with overweight issues.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported that last year, about 19 percent of school cafeterias were serving French fries, down from about the 40 percent serving them six years earlier.
Another gauge of healthier school food items: the same survey showed that high-fat baked goods were becoming more rare at school fundraisers, declining to 54 percent of the offerings last year compared to 67 percent six years earlier.
One more sign of healthier times: about half of schools today offer bottled water instead of sugary sodas or sports drinks at vending machines or snack bars. Only about a third of schools had bottled water available six years ago.
Latest statistics show that about one-third of the kids in the U.S. are overweight and 17 percent are considered obese.
Here’s the study stat that I found really hard to believe: about one-third of schools in the country still allow tobacco use on campus and at school events by adults. That’s an improvement from six years ago, when about half of schools in the country had smoking bans. In Minnesota, schools have banned smoking on their grounds for a much longer time than that, I believe. Public health officials still have a goal of having a total smoking ban on school grounds.
In St. Paul, Minn., they are. Grade school students were recently recognized with an environmental award by Mayor Chris Coleman for their efforts to help helping develop or promote more “green” living.
The students have found a creative use for their leftover school lunches. The waste food – weighing in at more than 253 tons last school year – has been converted into daily feed for the 4,000 hogs being raised on a farm near St. Francis, Minn.
Here’s how it works: Students dump their uneaten food into a barrel in the lunchroom. Barthold Farm and Recyling picks up the leftovers, cooks it up into a new recipe just for pigs.
Can you think of any other great ways to recycle or reuse waste items at your school? Share them here with other Science Buzz readers today.