3 Benefits of a Healthy School Lunch You Didn’t Know

There’s a new word in the Oxford dictionary these days: “hangry.” A combination of the words “hungry” and “angry,” this is the bad-temper or irritation brought on by extreme hunger. As adults, we’ve all been there, and we know what’s causing the issue. More importantly, we know that we can fix the problem by eating something and usually have the resources and freedom to do so.   

But for children, it’s different. They may not be aware that they’re hungry and can’t necessarily understand or communicate that is the reason behind their behavior challenges or bad attitude. They don’t have the means to fix the problem on their own, given classroom schedules, pre-determined meal times, and school rules about eating outside of the lunchroom. Hunger, and the resulting feelings of being “hangry,” can also be a problem that may exist day-after-day, resulting in ongoing food insecurity, stress, and anxiety that goes unresolved and results in stigma or punishments. 

When students are provided consistent, healthy, and nutritiously-packed school lunches and meals, they experience fewer behavioral issues, decreased detentions and suspensions, and student test scores also increase. (Fordham Institute). 

Studies by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) have found additional benefits of school lunches meeting the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) standards.  

  • School lunches are healthier than most lunches brought from home. Experts that have studied packed lunches for Pre-K and Kindergarten students found that they contain more calories, fat, saturated fat, and sugar than school lunches, and less protein, fiber, vitamin A, and calcium (FRAC). These are crucial nutrients needed for holistic child development.  
  • School lunches can decrease obesity rates by 17% and reduce overall poor health by 29%. Children who are not receiving proper nutrition are more susceptible to illness, and their immunities can be compromised. This leads to children frequently feeling sick, tired, and run down. Nutritious diets are proven to increase their health, energy, and vitality.  
  • Hunger and malnutrition affect every aspect of a child’s development. Behavioral, emotional, mental health, physical health, and academic problems become more frequent in children and teens who are struggling with hunger. Specifically, hungry children and teens are more susceptible to: 
  • Lower math scores and more unsatisfactory grades 
  • Behavioral issues, including hyperactivity, absenteeism, tardiness, and attention problems 
  • Suspensions resulting from anger management issues or inabilities to control their emotions 
  • Repeating a grade, needing special education services or tutoring, or requiring mental health counseling 

While these problems can appear in any child, researchers know they occur in children struggling with hunger.  

In providing healthy, consistent meals to children, there a few key issues in the areas of cafeteria management that need to be addressed. 

  • Meal Planning and Preparation – Meal planning should begin by considering what nutritious and healthy meals can be affordably prepared for large numbers of students. 
  • Efficient Management Strategies – The key is to streamline. Strategies should incorporate best processes in applying for free or reduced-priced meals to student accounts, speeding up lines through faster serving, receipt of payments and payment processing, and improved cafeteria staff training. 
  • Limiting Costs and Reducing Waste – Accurate purchasing, inventory control, and encouraging and receiving feedback are all components of a successful meal program that manages costs and reduces the amount of food that is thrown away. 

To implement solutions for these areas, schools require focused software that enables, tracks, and reports on these cafeteria management processes. With the right cafeteria management software, schools can more effectively manage their cafeterias in a multitude of ways. From creating affordable meal plans to installing secure and easy Point-of-Sale (POS) systems, the right software solutions empower staff to perform to their highest capability for the mission of feeding students.  

Best of all, software solutions enable schools to provide healthy meals to hungry kids. Helping schools to achieve the goal of feeding hungry children so that they all can reach their full potential is our focus at Harris School Nutrition Solutions. That’s why we’ve worked for more than 30 years to develop and support complete cafeteria management systems to help schools fulfill this goal in affordable and realistic ways.  

To learn more about how automating cafeteria management can help provide healthy school lunches on a budget, contact Harris School Nutrition Solutions today.