Nutrition in Illinois Schools

Patricia Hawke

Illinois Schools understand how hard it is for financially needy families to maintain proper nutrition for their families.  Let’s face it, healthy food is just more expensive.  So naturally it’s hard to eat healthy on a very limited budget.  Children in Illinois Schools now have several different options available to them through the school system to ensure that they are receiving the proper nutrition needed daily to stay healthy. 
What are the Nutritional Options in Illinois Schools?
National School Lunch Program (NSLP):  The NSLP in Illinois Schools is a voluntary program available to all public and private schools that a non-profit program offering lunches to all students in attendance.  Through the NSLP, Illinois Schools get a cash reimbursement for each meal served.  Those that participate must serve meals that meet federal requirements, operate a non-profit program, and offer free or reduced priced lunches to children who meet the requirements. 
After School Care Program Snack Services:  Illinois Schools understand that the hours after school are critical times where children are most at risk of engaging in delinquent behavior.  This After School Care Program offers children constructive activities to do after school along with something to eat.  Essentially, the snack service of the After School Care Program draws them into the after school program while also filling the gap between lunch and dinner, giving each child in Illinois Schools better nutrition. 
Special Milk Program:  Illinois Schools also have a Special Milk Program that provides reimbursement for milk served by schools that have no other federal Child Nutrition Program.  Its primary purpose is to encourage the consumption of milk by children.
Overall, Illinois Schools have the right idea in serving children free or reduced priced food to make sure they are getting the proper nutrition.  However, it has to be wondered if the food they are serving has any nutritional value at all.  As an alumnus of twelve years of school lunches, I can attest to their unusually poor quality despite the federal funding.  It would seem like the government needs to take another look at their National School Lunch Program and determine if it really as nutritious as they claim it to be. 
It would be safe to bet against it.  It’s hard to showcase a federally funded program when the premise behind it is untrue. Is there an easy solution?  Probably not.  But if they increased their funding to include foods that aren’t as processed and preserved, they might have an easier time promoting their program simply because the words “nutritious lunch” will be true.  Give kudos to Illinois Schools for trying, though.  They are working with what they’ve got.