Healthy School Meals

Grant Recipients


Wellness Policy

Vending Law


Healthy School Meals

School students eat about 17% of their meals each year in schools with the remainder eaten at home or in restaurants.  Addressing the childhood obesity crisis will take a community-wide effort with a focus on promoting healthy diets at home, increasing children’s physical activity and reducing screen time.  However, many studies have shown that school meals are a great move toward a healthier lifestyle.

  • Students who eat school meals are more likely to be a healthy weight (Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, August 2003)
  • Children tend to gain more weight in the summer than when they are in school.  The American Journal of Public Health 2007, stated “it appears that schools are healthier than most children’s non-school environments”.
  • USDA studies have shown that National School Lunch Program participants are more likely than non-participants to consume vegetables, milk and milk products, and meat and other protein-rich foods, both at lunch and over a 24 hour period.  These school meal participants also consume less soda and/or fruit drinks.

The meals offered by NETCO schools are required to meet science-based and federal nutrition standards which include:

  • No more than 30% of calories from fat and less than 10% from saturated fat
  • Meals must provide 1/3 of the Recommended Dietary Allowances for protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium
  • Age appropriate portion sizes

These meals include fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat milk, 100% juices, whole grain breads and cereals, and some locally sourced foods.

NETCO schools are constantly working to further improve the nutrition, taste, and variety of meals by monitoring the market and through student testing, product evaluation, and stringent procurement techniques.  Many student-friendly foods like pizza, chicken nuggets, and fish portions are re-formulated to make them a healthier version of their retail counterparts with whole grain crust, lower fat cheese, and reduced fat breading.  Preparation techniques usually avoid frying and reduce added fat and sodium.  These items are also paired with fruits and vegetables and low fat dairy to meet the required nutrition standards noted above.

Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA)

Nutrition standards and access to child nutrition programs are the focal points of the HHFKA. It authorizes funding and sets policy for the United States Department of Agriculture's core child nutrition programs: the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the School Breakfast Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. The Act also includes requirements for Pricing Equity of paid meals.
The Act implements nutrition changes for school meals based on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) research and recommendations.  Changes will be phased in over several years. NETCO systems are working to meet the requirements of these regulations which include calorie limits, minimum and maximum servings of grains and proteins, and sub-groupings of dark green, red/orange, starchy, and other vegetables. NETCO Schools were in compliance with many of the requirements even before the deadlines based on their proactive work to include use of low fat and fat free flavored and unflavored milk, many whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables secured through USDA and DOD monies and by seeking products with zero trans fats, reduced fats, and reduced sodium levels.

HealthierUS School Challenge Award Schools--Recognizing Excellence in Nutrition and Physical Activity

The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary certification initiative established by the USDA in 2004 to recognize those schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity. The application process requires an indepth look at the total school environment and culture.  Submission of a detailed application includes menus that meet strict criteria for whole grains, fresh fruits,  and dark green and red/orange vegetables.
NETCO is proud to announce the following schools have achieved this award: