The Community Eligibility Provision of the National School Lunch Program allows schools with high concentrations of poverty to feed their entire student body at no cost to the students. More than 28,000 schools serving over 44 percent of all students will be eligible for the program in 2014-2015, the first year it is available nationwide. 

The Farm to School program seeks to improve the health of children by bringing locally produced foods into school cafeterias and providing educationally enriching experiences such as farm field trips, school gardens and nutrition classes.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a survey of school district participation in the program, and estimates as of the 2012-2013 school year, over 3,800 school districts representing over 21 million students are buying local products.  These school districts collectively purchased more than $350 million of locally produced foods. 

The rate of child poverty has only slightly lowered since the 1960's when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty and currently hovers around 22 percent.  In 2012, 1 in 5 children were identified as poor.  Good nutrition, especially in the early years of a child's life, is vital to create the foundation for future physical and mental health.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 16 million chlidren under age 18 live in homes where they can't consistenly access an adequate amount of healthy and nutritious food.  However, trillions of calories are wasted or lost on a yearly basis.

The United States Food and Drug Administration released data of 13,000 public school districts to determine the use of local foods and nutritional education under the Farm to School Program. The program was created under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

For the first time in more than 15 years, school meal standards have been changed with a focus on improving child nutrition and reducing childhood obesity.  With the potential to impact more than 30 million students daily, these new guidelines will introduce more fruit and vegetables and reduce fat intake on lunch trays.  State policies and local practices can have a positive impact on the devastating rates of obesse and overweight children as students have an opportunity for more healthful eating.

The Farm-to-School Initiative connects schools with area farms to serve healthy meals using locally produced foods. Farm-to-school programs contribute to children’s health by helping them develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. Nationally, farm-to-school programs have increased from fewer than 10 in 1997 to more than 2,000 in 2008.

Huntington, W.Va., has more pizza parlors than gyms. That’s one reason the town—which sits in the fourth fattest state, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—was labeled the unhealthiest city in America by the CDC and drew the attention of British chef Jamie Oliver.

Yvonne Butler is a believer. She believes in the power of good nutrition to help students learn. She believes in the power of eating right to cut down on discipline problems. And she believes that getting kids to change their tastes to actually want to eat healthier food in school is a challenge, but worth the effort in the long run. Butler should know: She created the first sugar-free school in the country at Browns Mill Elementary and Magnet School in Georgia, just outside Atlanta.

The National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs provide millions of meals every day to the nation's disadvantaged children. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is trying to close loopholes that still allow unhealthy food onto school plates.

The statistics are startling. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of obese high school students has nearly tripled in the past three years. Thirty-two percent of children diagnosed with diabetes in one study had type 2 diabetes—the type normally  associated with obese adults. Obesity among children, once a rarity, has become an epidemic in this country. Fortunately, schools across the country are responding to this health crisis. Many innovative programs are taking place at the local or school district level, but all too often those programs operate in a vacuum and are not publicized, even in neighboring counties.

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