The New Zealand Government recently announced it would roll out a trial school lunch program in 120 schools in 2020 providing healthy school lunches for New Zealand kids. With one in five children attending school without breakfast or lunch, this initiative by the Government is to be applauded and is long overdue. Our concern however, is that the “healthy” part of the Government’s free lunch program will not happen without the adoption of nutritional standards to ensure free lunches provide children with the minimum recommended daily allowances of calories, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium.
Here are the Five Reasons Why Nutritional Standards are Essential for Free School Lunches:
- Children who eat nutritious, healthy food are emotionally well adjusted, less disruptive in the classroom and learn better and faster.
- Healthy food in schools is essential for preventing obesity in our children in the short term and long term. A new study on global obesity rates showed that New Zealand kids have the second-highest rate of child obesity in the OECD due to high amounts of saturated fat and sodium, fast foods and sugar.
- Nutritious food options for children can help protect against chronic disease including cardiovascular and diabetes.
- Unhealthy adult eating patterns are traced back to the provision of unhealthy school lunches because children learn eating habits from social settings such as school.
- Nutritional healthy food provides essential micronutrients such as zinc which produces happy hormones serotonin and dopamine.
The greatest investment we can make for the future of New Zealand is to grow healthy, happy children. We urge the New Zealand government to set mandatory standards for school lunches to ensure children get the correct levels of protein, vitamins and minerals required for a healthy future.