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School Lunches Get More Healthful



  • Health
    --Our Bodies


Grades 2-up

News Content

One U.S. state is taking the lead in making school lunches more healthful.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below.

  • French fries are high in nutrition.
  • If sugar is the main ingredient in a food, that food is probably very nutritious.
  • Kids who overeat are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease.

    News Words

    Introduce these words before students read the article:

  • overweight -- weighing more than is normal or desirable
  • obese -- very overweight
  • diabetes -- a disease in which there is too much sugar in the blood; it is caused by the body's inability to properly produce or use insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate the body's sugar levels)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this week's news story School Lunches Get More Healthful.

    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

  • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
  • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.
  • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

  • More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • "We will make our schools a national leader in the effort to give our children a head start on a longer, healthier, and more enjoyable life," said New Jersey's acting governor, Richard Codey, when he introduced his new school-lunch plan.
  • South Orange Middle School in New Jersey was chosen as the site for Codey's announcement because its food service director, Pat Johnson, already has adopted many of the regulations of New Jersey's new Model School Nutrition Policy. The school's beverage vending machines include no carbonated beverages. The cafeteria features a salad bar and other fresh fruits and vegetables and has replaced fried side dishes with vegetables. "People told us that participation in our school lunch program would decrease, but it actually has gone up," said Johnson. "If you offer healthy foods, the kids will eat them."

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

    You might follow-up that activity with some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • When do the new school lunch rules go into effect in New Jersey? (September 2007)
  • What is the total percent of students in New Jersey who are either obese or overweight? (38 percent; 20 percent of students are obese and another 18 percent are overweight -- for a total of 38 percent of students who are either obese or overweight)

    Think About the News

  • Discuss the questions in the Think About the News box on the students' news page.
  • Ask students if they have any unhealthy habits they wish they could change? Talk about those habits, how difficult it is to change some habits, and how they might accomplish the goal of changing those habits.
  • Share this news of a recent Pennsylvania study that revealed that students will select more healthful choices in the cafeteria if the nutritional information about each food is posted:

    At one school, students ordered an average of 61 cheeseburgers and 19 plain hamburgers a day during a period when nutrition information was not posted. After the nutrition information was posted, students ordered fewer cheeseburgers (43) and more plain hamburgers (31). At another school, an average of 380 pepperoni pizzas were ordered each day during a six-week period. In the next six weeks -- when nutritional information was posted -- the number of pepperoni pizzas ordered went down to an average of 346. During the same period, the number of cheese pizzas -- which have less fat and fewer calories -- increased from 37 to 60. Even though the menu options tested weren't the best, researchers say this small experiment shows the benefit of listing nutritional information at schools. "We didn't make any statements about the food whatsoever. We just put some information out there to see what they would do with it," said one of the study authors, Martha Conklin of Penn State University.
    After sharing that news, ask: Do you think schools should be required to post nutritional information about school lunch items? Would you pay attention to the nutritional information that is posted?

    Follow-Up Activities

    Nutrition. Introduce students to some myths (and facts) about nutrition that can be found on the PBS Kids Web site at It's My Life: Food Smarts Myths and Facts.

    More Nutrition. Some nutritionists say that "eating the rainbow" is one way to ensure good nutrition. They say the more naturally colorful foods you eat, the more nutrition you are getting. Write the following words on a board or chart:

  • blue/purple
  • green
  • orange/yellow
  • red Invite students to list foods of those colors next to each label. Talk about the health benefits of "eating the rainbow."


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NPH-H.K-4.1 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    NPH-H.K-4.2 Health Information, Products and Services
    NPH-H.K-4.4 Health Influences
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NPH-H.5-8.1 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    NPH-H.5-8.2 Health Information, Products and Services
    NPH-H.5-8.4 Health Influences
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NPH-H.9-12.1 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    NPH-H.9-12.2 Health Information, Products and Services
    NPH-H.9-12.4 Health Influences

    See more recent news stories in Education World's New Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2006 Education World