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The School Dinner Program: A New Frontier
The New School Dinner Plan
The number of children who stay after school due to working parents or school activities has increased over the last decade. If a child is enrolled in sports, a parent does not have time to pick him or her up for dinner. The usual meal plan is a fast-food meal or a type of protein bar and juice afterwards. Then, they head home where dinner, if any, will be served at 7 p.m or later.
Another scenario is the afterschool program where a child is either served a simple snack or brings a snack from home to eat during this time frame. For some children, this is dinner. The concern from school officials is the nutritional value of a snack that consists of cookies and a sugary drink, and even if it is healthy, it is still not sufficient to provide a complete meal.
In 1999, government records showed nearly thirty-one million people lacked sufficient access to quality food. The number increased to forty-eight million in 2010. School breakfasts served daily has risen from 3.5 million in 1991 to 9.2 million in 2011. School snacks and lunch are other meals served to children that would add to these cost figures.
In 2011, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) which provides funding to schools that offer nutritious dinners to children enrolled in after-school enrichment programs. The program is administered through the USDA and meant to support the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and Woman, Infant and Children (WIC) program. The aftercare subsidized meal program is now (2014 government statistics) available in all 50 US states.
The 1992 Food Guide Pyramid
The New Food Guide
The Revised Food Pyramid
When discussing the nutritional food programs offered by the government, such as the HHFKA, it is helpful to look at the requirements for meeting a complete healthy meal for children.
From 1916 until the 1930s, the guidelines were focused on protective foods and centered around food groups and household measures. In 1940 the guide changed to the "basic seven" food groups:
- Leafy greens and yellow veggies
- Citrus fruits, tomato, raw cabbage
- potatoes and other veggies and fruits
- milk, cheese, ice cream
- meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dried peas, beans
- bread, flour, cereal: whole-grain, enriched or restored
- butter and fortified margarine
However it lacked specific serving size and was considered too complex for the average family to follow.
Skipping over to the familiar 1992 model (see photo post), the pyramid focused on a total diet approach with goals for nutritional foods and in moderation. The visual guide spotlighted daily food variety, moderation and proportion in three calorie levels. It covered five food groups, including fats and sugars.
The newly revised food guide (replaces the pyramid), introduced in conjunction with the HHFKA, shows a dinner plate icon as a reminder for healthy eating and does not provide proportion size. The sections list fruits, grains, vegetable, protein and dairy as the daily food choices and variety. It does not promote desserts or junk food.
Daily Food Guide: Based Upon A 2600 Calorie Food Pattern
Rice, cereal, breads, baked goods, pasta: 50% of grains should be whole grain
Dark Green, Orange, Dry beans & peas, Starchy
Blueberries, Watermelon, Apples, Banana, Cherries, Oranges
Milk (2%, Skim, or Fat-free), yogurt, cheese, fortified soy milk
Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds
Note: Daily calorie intake varys from 1000 for 2 year olds to 2200+ for 9 - 17 year old children.
USDA Afterschool Meal Guideline
- 1 serving of milk (2% or less)
- 2 servings of fruits and or vegetables
- 1 serving of grains
- 1 serving of protein
An afterschool dinner can be served hot or cold. A typical meal may include a turkey sandwich, baby carrots, apple, and low-fat milk. Source: dchunger.org/fedfoodprogs/afterschool
Resource On School Programs
Basis for Afterschool Dinner Program
In 2011, there were 46.2 million households (15%) at the poverty level in the United States, and 16.1 million of this figure were children under the age of 18 years. A total of 57.2% of US food insecure households participated in a major Federal Food Assistance program. This is a large number of homes without proper food nutrition who are having to resort to aid in feeding their families. Furthermore, the current national unemployment rate is 8.9%, and the states of Rhode Island and California lead at a rate of 11.7% (Source: feedamerica.org).
With these figures it is easy to see why the US government has passed a food program to help sustain children who may not have proper nutrition at home. Schools report students often come to school hungry because they have not eaten since school lunch the previous day. Additionally, students have long bus rides after school that drop them off at their front door after 7:30 p.m. This is much too long for a child to wait for a meal. Lastly, the lack of proper nutrition is affecting school performance and overall academic success.
The purpose of the program is not only to feed students, but to introduce children to proper nutrition. Dinner meal programs include interesting foods such as sheperd's pie, organic fruits and vegetables, salads, yogurt, broccoli, and chocolate milk.
Voice Your Opinion!
Are you for or against the new HHFKA Afterschool Dinner Program?
The Afterschool Dinner Argument
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
The HHFKA program is not meant to take the place of the family dinner at home, but many believe it enables parents to ignore their children's needs. The school is replacing the family unit due to the increased meals served to children. Those who argue against the program state schools should teach children about nutrition but leave the actual meals for the family home environment. Isn't family dinner time where children learn manners, proper etiquette, and are given loving attention?
Another popular discussion centers around the additional school cost to serve the food, supervise the children, and janitorial services to clean-up and maintain the facility. The meal cost is a $2.86 per child, but the hidden costs would increase this amount.
Others argue that low income families already receive food stamps from government funding, shouldn't this be deducted from their total received? The additional food stamp allowance would only increase the fraudulent spending on junk foods, drugs and other non-essential items.
Food Program Trivia Quiz
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Should We Feed The Poor?
If you refuse to listen to the cry of the poor, your own cry will not be heard.
Proverbs 21:13 TEV
We live in a time where most people live day by day, they only know where their present meal is coming from, and the number increases daily. As one can see by the statistics posted, America is in need of assistance in feeding the masses. We cannot ignore their cries for help.
The federal government, funded by people, carries a heavy load in providing meals to school children. Some say that that this is worth the cost because these children are not given the attention they need from parents at home. However, we must pray and plan for a day when this is behind us and all people can provide for themselves and take pride in doing so.