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Nutrition & Learning

CPS Leads in School Nutrition

Healthy Fruits and VegetablesCincinnati Public Schools is recognized in Ohio as a leader in school nutrition. The Ohio Department of Education presented CPS with the 2011 and 2010 Stellar Award for best practices in promoting healthy school nutrition.

Parent Guide to Cincinnati Public Schools' Student Dining Services

Good nutrition is important to learning. Children behave better, have longer attention spans and are more eager to learn when they eat healthy meals. Student Dining Services wants to make sure that all of CPS' students are ready to focus on their lessons every day.

The stigma of the "traditional school lunch" is challenging to overcome, but Student Dining Services is working hard to provide exciting menu options, new marketing initiatives, and improve food choice and quality. Their goal is provide restaurant-style food that meets nutritional guidelines.

"We want to be the premier provider of nutritious, low-cost, delicious meals so that students don't feel they have to eat school lunch, but that they want to eat school lunch."

—Jessica Shelly, Director of Student Dining Services

New School Meal Requirements

Important changes to school menus help CPS comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Key changes for school menus:

  • There will be food-based (calorie) menu planning for three grade groups: K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Portion sizes and recipes will be designed to meet the specific group.
  • We now are limited as to how much meat/meat alternate (cheese, yogurt, etc.) and grains we can offer in a week. We must stay within specified ranges for each grade group. Some main entrees may not be as large as before.
  • There will be calorie minimum and maximum levels.
  • More fruits and vegetables will be available, including a vegetable salad bar in each school every day.
  • All students may continue to take two ½ cup servings of vegetables, and 9-12 students may take two ½ cup servings of fruit.
  • Students must select at least ½ cup of fruit or vegetable component for their trays (to allow the district to be reimbursed for a meal by the federal government).
  • No trans fats are allowed, and there are continued limits on saturated fat. We add no butter to our vegetables, use only low-fat cheeses and lean proteins, and oven bake instead of fry all items.
  • All flavored milks will continue to be reduced sugar, with no high fructose corn syrup, and fat free.

Our menus follow the U.S. Healthy School Challenge Award Gold Level menu planning. Parents and students may notice menu changes to meet the new regulations.

Nutrition Guidelines

Meals served under the National School Lunch Program meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. School lunches provide one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances of daily nutritional requirements appropriate for that grade level — protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium and calories. No more than 30 percent of calories comes from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. Portion sizes are regulated by the National School Breakfast & Lunch Programs.

Did You Know?

Good Food Purchasing Program logo appleThe Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) is a coordinated local-national initiative that harnesses the power of procurement to create a transparent and equitable food system. The system is built on five values:  Local economies, nutrition, a valued workforce, environmental sustainability and animal welfare.

GFFP, in conjuction with our Clean Label Initiative, Ohio Proud logohelps our district ensure students can access healthy food during the school day.  Improving healthy food access can contribute toward reducing their long-term risk of diabetes, heart diseases, and other conditions that disproportionately impact low-income communites and people of color.

January 2019, CPS adopted the GFFP. Student Dining Services proudly partners with local growers and Ohio Proud Manufactures. We source 90 percent of our milk and 30 percent of our produce from local farmers. We are Ohio Proud!

Life Time Foundation

Life Time Foundation LogoIn February 2020, CPS started a multi-year partnership with Life Time Foundation to support our Clean Label Initiative, ensuring all of our students receive nutritious meals to support academic excellence in a positive environment. Life Time Foundation's mission is to get all kids started on their healthy way of life journey. Our partnership centers around the elimination of Unwanted Ingredients and the reduction of Watch Ingredients based off of the science-based Ingredient Guide for Better School Food Purchasing. Learn more about Life Time Foundation.

Benefits of School Lunch

A 2011 study, conducted by the National Centers for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and published in the Journal of Economics, showed that participation in the National School Lunch Program reduces poor general health by 29 percent,  obesity by at least 17 percent and not getting enough food to sustain an active, healthy life by 3.8 percent.

According to research published in 2010 by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, just 1.1 percent of children's packed lunches meet nutritional standards for school meals. USDA research indicates that children who participate in the National School Lunch Program get better nutrition compared to those who do not participate.

For children, the National School Lunch Program provides a nutritious meal containing one-third of the recommended dietary allowance of necessary nutrients. For parents, the program offers a convenient method of providing a nutritionally balanced lunch at the lowest possible price. For schools, the program enhances children's learning abilities by contributing to their physical and mental well-being. Studies have shown that children whose nutritional needs are met have fewer attendance and discipline problems and are more attentive in class.

Healthy Lunches

While school lunches are healthier than many home-packed meals, CPS is providing information for parents who choose to pack so they can provide nutritious lunches that contain the proper servings of fruits, vegetables and dairy, and are lower in fat and sugar.

Self-Supporting Funding

The Student Dining Services Fund differs from other district budgets because it is an Enterprise Fund, which is run like a private business. Revenues need to meet or exceed expenditures. Since Student Dining Services is self-supporting, it depends on prompt payment to maintain the services provided to students.

Student Dining Services does not receive any money from the district's General Fund budget, levies, or property taxes. Student Dining Services is funded only from federal reimbursement and student payments.

Cincinnati Public Schools is an equal opportunity employer/provider.

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