According to the School Nutrition Association, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the country's second-largest food and nutrition assistance program. During the 2019 school year, the NSLP served 4.8 billion lunches to children nationwide. With the vast number of students receiving school meals, it is more important than ever to ensure students are receiving balanced nutritious meals.

Consuming a diet low in saturated fat and sodium and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains not only has many health benefits but is also is linked to academic achievement. Students who consume healthy meals are more attentive in class, retain more information, and are less likely to be tired during school hours. Thus, improving the quality of meals served during the school day is an essential step towards ensuring students are ready to learn.

"Many people do not realize the NSLP is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are evidence-based recommendations to promote health, prevent chronic disease, and help people to reach and maintain a healthy weight," states Diane Reinhold, U of I Extension, Nutrition and Wellness Educator. To help school nutrition professionals (SNP) understand and implement these guidelines, the USDA has established professional standards for SNP. These standards allow SNP to receive continuing education and training to aid them in creating nutritious, safe, and enjoyable meals. 

University of Illinois Extension has partnered with the Illinois State Board of Education to offer professional development training for SNP this August. This free, three-hour training will be offered from 8:00 AM to Noon, August 3, 4, and 5, at three separate locations. The first training will be held on Tuesday, August 3, at the Pearl City High School, 100 South Summit St, Pearl City IL, the second will be held, Wednesday, August 4, at the Pecatonica High School, 1300 Main St, Pecatonica, IL, and the final training will be held on Thursday, August 5, at the South Beloit High School, 245 Prairie Hill Road, South Beloit, IL.

Per CDC requirements for schools, social distancing will be in place and, masks are required. These trainings provide three hours of USDA Professional Standards credits for the 2021-2022 school year. There is no charge for this training; however, preregistration is required, and space is limited. To learn more or register, call us at (815)235-4125 or visit us online: go.illinois.edu/jsw.

Diane Reinhold is a University of Illinois Extension, Nutrition and Wellness Educator and registered dietitian. For more about upcoming programming on nutrition and wellness, visit go.illinois.edu/jsw  or call (815) 235-4125.