Tray Talk: Learn More About Healthy School Lunches

This summer I had the privilege of attending the School Nutrition Association’s National School Lunch Conference on behalf of the SNA. I wrote about everything I learned here. I was amazed by how much school lunches have changed since I was in school. I am happy to partner with them to share this post.

The School Nutrition Association has a great website called Tray Talk that was created for parents to get the facts about school meals. Parents can get answers about the nutritional values of lunches, how school nutrition programs are working to make healthy meals kid-friendly, learn more about how special dietary needs are handled and a variety of other questions.

The site also gives parents ideas of how to get involved. The three simple steps the site suggests include:

  • Review cafeteria menus with your child and encourage them to try new menu items. Prepare new foods – especially fruits and vegetables – at home and your child may be more willing to try these foods at school.
  • Visit the school cafeteria to make your own observations and have lunch. Check with the principal first to make sure that is allowed!
  • Inquire about volunteer opportunities in your school cafeteria.  Some schools request parent volunteers to help usher students through the lunch line and encourage them to eat their fruits and vegetables.  Many school districts have a wellness committee comprised of community volunteers, to help establish district nutrition and physical activity policies.
I also loved reading about the success stories that other schools have shared. It’s fun seeing what other districts are doing to get their children excited about eating healthy meals. I wish they had things like cooking contests, spinach-strawberry salads, and farm tours to see how food was grown when I was younger! Want to learn more? Check out Tray Table on Facebook!

The New School Lunch Offerings

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

What comes to mind when you hear the term “school lunch”? When I hear that, I think of the foods that were offered when I was in grade school- pizza, overcooked broccoli, meatloaf, taco salad, hamburgers and the like. So when I was invited to Boston to attend the School Nutrition Association’s School Lunch Conference I was blown away by how much school lunches had changed.

The first thing I noticed was the variety of foods available. Yes, some of the staples from years ago are still being served but there are so many new things, too. I saw sushi, Chinese food, pasta salad worthy of a backyard celebration, mushroom burgers and shaker salads.

Another thing I noticed was the great effort that companies were going to to market their foods and make them appealing to kids and teenagers. Things like hard boiled eggs on lollipop sticks, fancy containers that made the foods look like they were from a restaurant, and colorful packages.


Most of all though, the main theme throughout the convention center was making school lunches healthier. Whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables were found down every row of booths. Not just healthy but the food had to taste good. As the food service coordinators for various schools shared, it’s important for food to taste good or else it’s just going to end up in the trash can and nobody wants that. I had pizza on whole grain crust that was so delicious that I would have assumed it was delivery.

And speaking of pizza…a lot of large brands were there including a well-known pizza delivery company. At first I thought it was a bit odd but it’s important to note that the foods that these well-known brands serve at schools are not the same foods that we buy at the grocery store or that we order to be delivered. All foods served in the cafeteria have to meet strict guidelines.

Overall, I left the conference feeling empowered. I really feel like, as parents, we have a responsibility to be more aware of what is happening in our children’s school cafeterias.I always thought I’d pack my children’s lunch but after attending the conference I feel more confident that my children are going to get healthy, balanced lunches at school.