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Let’s Rethink Lunch: A Healthy Meals Program of HCPSS

We are rethinking school lunch – and we hope you will too!

School lunch is the healthiest and most substantial meal of the day for many Howard County students. Appealing options in the cafeteria can make the difference in a student’s day and entire life.

The school system’s lunches are a healthy option for local families. Thanks to strong federal standards, each meal contains lean protein, fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk, and meets rigorous standards for calories, percentage of calories from fat, amount of salt and nutritional content. There are even specific requirements that children get dark green vegetables, orange vegetables and legumes at least once a week.

We don’t just meet national standards―we exceed them. We do not fry anything, so we serve oven roasted potato wedges, not french fries. All of our ‘a la carte’ items for sale outside of the lunch menu have high nutritional content and low added sugar. We also support Maryland agriculture and business: all our milk comes from Frederick, our bread comes from Baltimore-based H&S Bakery, and many of our vegetables are grown in-state. In fact, 60 percent of our food comes from local vendors.

We are strengthening our commitment to healthy meals for the students in our care. In spring 2016, HCPSS launched the “Let’s Rethink Lunch” healthy meals program at Bollman Bridge, Laurel Woods and Talbott Springs elementary schools with new fresh fruit and vegetable bars for students. Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, Let’s Rethink Lunch was expanded to all elementary schools. The program gives students access to a wider range of high quality, healthy and delicious options for school meals.

Let’s Rethink Lunch helps more students eat better and learn better. The program’s expansion aligns with the school system’s goal of providing a nurturing educational program that promotes student health and wellness.

Learn more about our fresh fruit and vegetable bar initiative

Rethink packing lunch!

Scientists from Baylor, Tufts and Virginia Tech have found that school lunch is healthier than what many families pack, based on recent studies comparing lunches packed from home with lunches prepared at school.

The Virginia Tech study, for example, found that lunches students brought from home had more calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar than school lunches. School lunches, meanwhile, had more protein, fiber and calcium, and many more vegetables.

The Baylor study found that 90 percent of lunches students brought from home included sweetened beverages, snack chips and desserts―none of which are included in national school lunches.

Rethinking lunch can mean packing differently. It could also mean trying school lunch once a month, once a week or more.

Rethink affordability

Would you like to try buying lunch but are concerned about the cost? Your family may qualify for the Free and Reduced Meals (FARMs) program, which will help your child get school lunch at little to no cost to you. Call your school or visit our FARMs page for more information.