Schools have now been known to play a powerful role in an effort to combat childhood obesity which is a condition that is threatening the population; this is a problem which has affected children in the U.S for many years. With the launch of the National school program which is a federally assisted meal plan operating in a number of public schools, non-profit private schools and child care institutions in 2010 through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. It is administered by state education agencies through agreements with the school administrations the program offers subsidized meals that are available to low income students for free or at a reduced rate. The program also has incorporated teaching children about agriculture, cooking, and gardening, and students then gain a greater understanding of where their food comes from and how it is produced.
The schools that take part in this program get cash subsidies alongside USDA foods and the conditions are that the school must serve lunches that meet the federal requirements and also offer free or reduced price lunches to children that are eligible. Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through this program with the requirements being that the children who come from families with incomes at 130 or below 130 percent of the poverty level are allowed to take the free meals. Those whose families have incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are allowed for reduced‐price meals, for which the students will be charged no more than forty cents. Children from families with incomes over 185 percent of poverty are required to pay a full price; the decisions on what specific foods schools should serve and how they are prepared are left to the school authorities to decide.
The type of foods that schools get from USDA is selected from a list of various foods that is purchased by USDA.
The feeding program provides healthy foods to millions of children daily with an encouragement in more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and a reduction in sodium, saturated fat and unwanted calories.
The foods are also offered as they become available through agricultural surplus. And depends on the quantities available and market prices. A successful project between USDA and Department of Defense has provided schools with fresh produce purchased through the DOD. USDA has also worked with schools in an effort to help promote connections with local small farmers who may be able to provide produce that is fresh.
The following steps can be taken by parents, teachers and administrators to ensure that the program works smoothly:
1. Students can be helped to eat healthy breakfast at home or enroll in the breakfast program
2. Promotion of whole grains, fruits and vegetables in lunch that is eaten by students
3. Involvement of students in designing the food menus
Challenges on the National School Lunch Program are:
1. Despite this being a healthy initiative, some schools are opting out of it because students are not eating as required with the effect that the schools are losing money, because the kids are not buying the better options in the cafeteria.
2. There are higher costs to feed children because some schools do not have enough kids who qualify for these lunches and the reimbursement offered by the USDA is not enough to cover the costs associated.