We learn many life skills in school over the 12 years spent there that prepare us for adult life. Outside of the standard subjects like Math, Science, History, English, we learn soft skills like social skills, problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking. However, our education rarely covers nutrition and fueling our bodies – even though students receive up to 50% of their daily calories from school meals. Why not make school food a learning experience as well?
This past spring, we surveyed our Eat REAL network of school district leaders, and many voiced the need to make more time for meals at school so they can use the time as an opportunity for learning. Eat REAL Certification presents the perfect opportunity to turn the cafeteria into a classroom. Students can participate in the real food journey as their school makes impactful change by implementing Eat REAL Standards.
Our certification program works with school districts to create lasting changes in ingredient procurement, menu planning, and meal execution, so the meals they serve are both nutritious and climate-friendly. We work in close collaboration with foodservice leaders throughout the process and adapt to the distinctive needs of the given district, no matter where they are on their real food journey.
We begin by defining the unique goals of the district as they are aligned with the Eat REAL Certification Standards. Our third-party Eat REAL Registered Dietitians analyze and assess the entire operation and make recommendations to help our team create a plan. We create change plans customized to the district’s needs, capacity, and timeline and help prioritize the most feasible and impactful changes. Over the next two years, we work side by side with the schools to implement changes, problem-solve, and celebrate every win, no matter how small.
Looking to reduce added sugar at breakfast? We’ll show you how to find better options and give you the tools to negotiate with distributors. One of our districts was able to remove harmful ingredients from the bread they were buying simply by having a conversation with the producer. The producer changed the recipe so a higher quality product could be offered to their students.
Our guides show options ranging from “good, better, best” to highlight how even the smallest changes make a big difference for additional support or for districts not quite ready to begin.
As schools begin to shift and evolve their meal programs, it’s the perfect opportunity to start a conversation with students about why their meals are changing. Today, kids are more aware than ever of the world around them and the impact they have. Teaching kids the importance of their food choices and their impact on their health and the planet can set them up for success later in life and empower them to live healthfully while protecting our planet.
According to a recent study, 67% of the calories children and young adults consume come from ultra-processed foods. With the rise in school meal participation, many more children are getting half their daily caloric intake from school food. We have the opportunity to ensure these calories are from real, nutritious, and sustainable foods. Imagine the possibilities as we see metabolic disease rates decrease and teach our children how to be real food advocates for their health and future.
Ready to learn more about what it would take for your district? Please send us a note here. Eat REAL Certification is offered to school districts free of cost, thanks to our incredible community of supporters. You can donate to help cover the cost of a school district’s Eat REAL Certification journey here.