Benefits of Eating Meals at School
Every child attending school is entitled to a balanced, nutritious meal to sustain him/her during the school day. It is a known fact that hungry children cannot learn. This is the reason the United States Department of Agriculture started the school meal program in 1946. Therefore the cost is kept down and the program is run on the basis that what is charged for the meal is below the cost of the meal. The program is supported by commodity items and reimbursement for meals served from federal and state funds.
Even though the price is kept low there are still families who cannot afford this price and provisions have been made so that these children can get the meal no matter what their economic circumstances. If you feel that your child would qualify for the lower priced or free meals, get in touch with your local school's cafeteria manager for an application. These applications are sent home at the beginning of each school year for each student but others can be obtained as circumstances change.
What is the "Offer vs. Serve" Meal Services Provision?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the meals program in Georgia Public Schools through the State Department of Education's Nutrition Division. The "Offer vs. Serve" meals provision was first developed and instituted in the early 1980's by the USDA to help prevent waste in the meal service program. Under this provision, students are "offered" all five of the required meal components (1. one meat/meat alternate (like cheese), 2. one bread or grain, 3. one fruit, 4. one vegetable and 5. eight ounces of fluid unflavored milk), and the students select the three to five meal components they want instead of being automatically "served" all of the components.
In the Gilmer County School System, we believe that a complete meal comprised of all five food components provides better nourishment for our students. We are committed to do our part to help prepare the students to learn by providing nourishment or fuel for their brains and their bodies. A hungry child cannot learn as well. For this reason, we offer students their choice of 2 to 3 entrées or protein items, 1 to 2 breads or grains, 1 to 2 fruits, 2 to 3 vegetables and different types or flavors of milk. Of these choices, students are encouraged to select a full meal which consists of all 5 food components. A complete meal of 5 components might consist of a piece of barbequed chicken (meat/protein), a homemade yeast roll (bread), a serving of Blue Lake green beans (vegetable), a Red Delicious apple (fruit) and 8 ounces of fat free, grade A chocolate milk. This is a complete meal according to the USDA Federal Guidelines.
In the "Offer vs. Serve" provision, students are "offered" choices of all the different meal components, but can refuse up to 2 items and still be counted as a complete meal for Federal reimbursement purposes. Students must take at least 3 different food components to be considered a reimbursable meal. Refusing items does not relieve the students from paying the full price for the meal.
To further clarify the Federal regulation, if a student selects 2 of the same components or items, for example, 2 rolls, 2 apples, or 2 servings of green beans, this would count as only 1 of those respective components. To ensure that students get more of the daily required nutrients they need in a day, variety is vital. If students insist on taking less than the required three different minimum components, they will be charged the a la carte meal price, which at times, will be higher than the cost of the full meal, depending on the items selected. You see, we do not receive any Federal reimbursement for meals that do not meet the minimum USDA Guidelines. We would appreciate the understanding of the students and parents regarding these provisions. Of course, students can always talk with the Child Nutrition manager in their school for an additional explanation or further assistance.
So, what's the bottom line? Students must select at least 3 of the different food components offered in the cafeteria on a daily basis to be considered a full meal. And remember, variety is always encouraged to help ensure the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and energy needed by healthy, growing bodies.
What advantages are there to eating meals at school instead of brown bagging from home? There are many benefits of eating meals at school. Listed below are just a few.
School meals are subsidized by both the federal and state governments so prices are kept low. Every student meal is subsidized, not just those who qualify for free or reduced price. Where else could you purchase an entire meal for so little?
School meals are prepared with the health of the children in mind.
Recipes are used that have been modified to reduce salt, sugar, and fat. Helping students develop new tastes for healthier foods is one goal of the program.
Food is Safe
Hot food is served hot and cold food is served cold.
Our employees are trained in food safety so that the risk of contamination has been greatly reduced. Many meals packed at home will become contaminated unless held at a proper temperature. In addition, food served at the proper temperature tastes better. For more information about food safety follow these links... FightBac.Org
The School Nutrition Program serves as a learning laboratory for students. A variety of nutritious foods are offered at school. Many students will not get an opportunity to try these foods anywhere else. A complete school meal meets the dietary guidelines for healthy students and serves as an excellent example of what a balanced meal should contain.
Milk Offered Every Meal
Growing children need calcium to develop properly. By offering milk at both breakfast and lunch, chances are increased that students will get adequate calcium. To read more about milk, click here
School meals are convenient. There are no lunches to pack or worry about getting lost or stolen. Students can prepay for meals or pay daily. Eating breakfast at school saves precious time and reduces that morning hassle.