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Dec. 17, 2008
CONTACT: Pamela Young
pyoung@emich.edu 734.487.4400

Healthy school meals help children during economic downturn

YPSILANTI — Despite high unemployment and families’ efforts to save money, more students are eating lunch at school, according to a report released Dec. 12 by the School Nutrition Association. The report, “Saved by the Lunch Bell: As Economy Sinks, School Nutrition Program Participation Rises,” an average of 425,000 more students nationwide are participating in free and reduced school lunch programs.

Dr. Kate Wilson, president of the School Nutrition Association, said that when hunger is more common, more students are able to eat a balanced nutritious meal at school.  Meals served under the National School Lunch Program must meet nutrition guidelines set by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. That means no more than 30 percent of calories can come from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. School lunches provide one-third of the recommended dietary allowances of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium and calories over the course of one week of menus.

Research by Alice Jo Rainville, professor of nutrition and dietetics, in the School of Health Sciences at Eastern Michigan University, showed that school lunches have a better nutrition quality and a lower cost than lunches from home. Students who eat school lunches, she said, consume fewer calories from fat than students who bring lunch from home. Additionally, school lunches contain three times as many dairy products, twice as much fruit and seven times the vegetable amounts compared to lunches from home.

Rainville is a nationally known expert on the nutritional value of school lunches. A registered dietitian, she is a long-time member of the School Nutrition Association and has been a spokesperson for the Association since 2003.

For more information on school nutrition issues, please contact Dr. Rainville at 734.487.0430.

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