Why Are Fewer Kids Eating School Lunch?

You might have read that in the past few years, fewer children have been participating in the school lunch program. There are several reasons for this: New laws have made some kids feel that their lunches are unappetizing, more students are receiving their lunches for free due to falling income levels, and some schools are offering snacks that the children find more tempting than their actual lunches.


Unappetizing Lunches

With new laws passed within the past several years that required more fruits and vegetables to be served (or offered) with lunches, lower-fat foods, reduced sodium levels and other healthful changes, some children who were not used to this type of food balked. They might have felt that whole-grain bread, low-fat dairy and protein-based (as opposed to simple carbohydrates-based) meals were not appealing enough.

This can be remediated by offering healthier forms of already-familiar foods. This could vary from location to location. Some schools with a high percentage of students from a particular country or culture have begun offering options that resemble the types of foods those children eat at home. With children, presentation can be everything; if a new food does not look appetizing, they will simply not eat it.

More Free Lunches

When discussing school lunch participation, the topic is usually about paid lunches; that is, the number of students paying the full price for the lunch. Federal law states that children in families who have incomes under 130% of the poverty level can have free breakfast and lunch, and that children in families who have incomes under 185% of the poverty level can have reduced-price breakfast and lunch (no more than $0.30 per breakfast and $0.40 per lunch).

In recent years, the number of families who qualify for this type of assistance has grown, so more children are eating for free or for just a fraction of the price of the meal. The good news is that kids are being offered healthy lunches; the problem comes in when they choose not to eat the lunches for one reason or another.

Snack Availability

Before 2013, schools could offer snacks for sale that would compete with the school lunches being given or sold to kids. There were few limitations on what those snacks could be. Now, however, snacks must adhere to the same types of nutritional guidelines that school lunches do. Many kids are opting to eat snacks in lieu of lunch. Since the snacks are now healthier, they are getting more nutritional value out of their snacks. It does impact how many kids are eating school lunch, however.

Offering healthy foods that are also appetizing and affordable is the best way to get kids to eat healthy during the school day and have the energy they need to get through their afternoon classes without feeling hungry. My Hot Lunchbox offers an excellent variety of healthy, appetizing, and affordable lunches from the brands that your kids already know and enjoy. Contact us to find out how your school or business can enroll.