SAVANNAH, GA- Are your kids getting all the options for a healthy lunch or breakfast at school? That’s just what USDA officials are looking for Thursday as they tour local schools.
Schools like Shuman Elementary mirror dozens of Savannah-Chatham schools when just before noon it’s lunch time.
“First time in decades schools have to have fruits and vegetables everyday,” says Kevin Concannon.
Concanon is the active under secretary at the USDA’s food and nutrition services. Thursday morning he is having a plate of collard greens with students. This visit is a part of several events he’s attending to see how the school system is meeting healthy food requirements.
“We have a major public health problem of again eating too many processed foods over time and so schools can be the answer to getting us all on a better course,” he says.
Savannah-Chatham public schools are dealing with big changes in the school’s nutrition program since 2012. That was when the school adopted the guidelines for nutrition under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The guidelines under the act have received some scrutiny as reports show more than a million students dropped off from purchasing school lunches.
Concannon says those cases were with students who had to already pay for lunch, and parents deciding to shift, having their children take bag lunches to school instead of paying increased costs of school lunch.
Last year the school board announced free breakfasts for all schools in Chatham county. They did that in effort to comply with the program and to do what Concannon says allowed the school system to improve their healthy food providing efforts.
Still a concern locally and federally for the school meals program is getting the kids on board when healthy eating habits are not the norm in their lives.
“We’re climbing up hill because when some of the kids get home or when many of the kids get home they’re in a very different food environment, so we’re working with our snap our food stamp nutrition education programs to try and influence more directly what parents are doing at home,” Concannon says.
More information to apply for free and reduced lunches in the SCCPSS can be found on there website.