- Educate yourself about your school's food-service program by checking the district's or school's website. For details about the federal National School Lunch Program, go to www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/and click on Program Fact Sheet. Visit healthykids.ciachef.edu/ for resources, interactive tools and doable advice for assisting your school in implementing positive changes in the lunchroom.
- Learn some of the easy ways to get your kid's cafeteria to offer fresh, made-from-scratch meals. Thelunchbox.org is a free online tool kit that shows how schools across the country do it in a cost-effective manner. Created through Renegade Lunch Lady chef Ann Cooper's F3 (Food, Family and Farming) Foundation, the site has a slew of resources, recipes and a very positive vibe.
- Emphasize activity along with food choices. Fuel Up to Play, fueluptoplay60.com, an in-school program sponsored by the National Dairy Council, encourages a one-two punch of good nutrition and at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Thanks to student ambassadors helping spread the word, this program reaches two-thirds of the schools in the U.S.
- Encourage your child's school to apply for a free salad bar through SaladBars2Schools.org. Ideally, fruits and vegetables should fill half of your kid's plate, so having fresh produce available on the lunch line is key.
- Get involved with the National Farm to School Network, farmtoschool.org, which helps bring local foods into the cafeteria. The organization also provides hands-on educational opportunities, such as garden planting, cooking demonstrations and farm tours, so kids know where their food comes from.
Is your school doing a great job on the lunch front? Visit familycircle.com/lunchroom to tell us how, and the story could be in an upcoming issue.
Originally published in the October 1, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.