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Healthy School Meals - PTA Involvement

National PTA and School Meals

The National PTA has been involved in school meals efforts since advocating for the establishment of the National School Lunch Program in 1946. Today, the National PTA continues to advocate for nutrition standards in school meals and snacks, increased access to school meals for all students, and family involvement in the development, implementation and evaluation of school wellness policies.

“Healthy students make better learners, and school meals are an opportunity for children to receive more than half of their daily nutrient needs. Ensuring children have access to nutritious foods in schools is critical to their success,” – Laura Bay, President of National PTA

The Importance of Family Engagement

Experts have identified that family engagement in school meals efforts is necessary to help provide solutions and mobilize efforts. Your school meals conversations, through high-quality family engagement and effective partnerships, should answer the following questions:

  • How can we improve the way we welcome families and encourage their involvement in the school meals conversation?
  • How can we inspire open communication and collaboration among families, the school nutrition team and school leaders as we work to support healthy school meals?
  • How can we ensure our school meals efforts always focus on supporting student success through promotion of healthy behaviors, high-quality meals, and access to school meals?
  • How are we speaking up for every child—especially migrant students and students with low socioeconomic means—in our school meals conversations and solutions to ensure every child feels welcome in the cafeteria and has access to high-quality school meals?
  • How are we ensuring that each partner in our school meals efforts—families, school staff, school nutrition team and students—has equal power in the deciding solutions?
  • How can we engage community leaders, farmers, relevant businesses and nonprofits and other partners to help create a community environment that promotes healthy behaviors and ensures access to food for all families?

What PTAs Can Do

PTAs should partner with their school leaders, school nutrition team, families and students to:

  • Find out if your school participates in the Federal School Meals programs. If not, work with your school and district administration to encourage participation. 
  • Start the conversation with school leaders and school nutrition staff to understand and support healthy school meals.
  • Form a school meals team focused on understanding and supporting healthy school meals, school wellness policies, the school meal environment and/or the school nutrition team’s needs.
  • Assess the school meals, school food environment, policies and school nutrition team’s needs to identify areas of improvement.
    • Volunteer during meal times, eat lunch with your children or review school menus to find out what school meals are like.
    • Check out the cafeteria: Is it a nice place to eat? Do visuals promote healthy eating?
    • Investigate how students feel about when they eat lunch, how much time they have to eat, how the food tastes and what they would like to see changed. Organize a taste test or student cooking competition for new, healthier recipes and foods. 
  • Create a school meals action plan that outlines clear steps to support healthy school meals, improve the school food environment and school wellness policies and support the school nutrition team’s training and equipment needs.
  • Implement the school meals action plan, evaluate its effectiveness and note areas for further involvement and support.

Learn More:

National PTAs National Standards for Family School Partnership: A baseline of what high-quality family engagement in school meals may look like, it outlines what parents,schools, and communities can do together to support student success.

School Nutrition Association – Get Involved: School meal programs need the support of the entire school community to succeed. Learn how families can get involved.

Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools: An initiative to increase children’s fruit and vegetable consumption by donating salad bars to schools across the United States.

National Farm to School Network: Portal for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and preschools.