I just received a letter from my daughter’s school sharing that the school cafeteria has undergone a makeover and has a new look.

A neighbor received a letter from her child’s school stating that they are starting a new school meal program. As a parent of a school-age child and a consultant supporting healthy school meal enhancements, I can’t help but notice all of the fresh and healthy changes that are taking place in lunchrooms in Denver and across our state.

Thanks to strengthened federal meal guidelines and the pioneering spirit of food service directors, the look and taste of school lunch and the places in which it is served are changing. Food service directors and kitchen staff committed to providing fresher, tastier meals that are better for our kids are baking homemade, whole-grain breads and serving other freshly prepared items in many districts.

saladbarSo as you step back into your student’s school this fall, afford yourself a fresh look at school food. Fresh salad bars dot a growing number of cafeterias and offer a bright and colorful array of healthy foods that parents will be hard pressed to provide at a competitive price.

It is my hope that some of these changes will win over more students and their parents to school lunch. When students vote with their trays for these fresher items, it can only serve to increase the dollars school food directors have to infuse and expand school meal programs with more fresh ingredients.

While many school districts will acknowledge they still have work to do to enhance their offerings, many positive changes have already been made. These changes are worth noting and trying.

As you help your student make his or her way back to school, take a step into the cafeterias to see what is being dished up on school trays. Encourage your student to give these new items a try. With student and parent buy-in, school meals will only continue to become fresher, tastier, and healthier each year. School food might just be the healthy and convenient meal alternative you were looking for this school year.