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School Food Is Healthier Than Ever. Will It Stay That Way?

Out with the beef and cheese nachos; in with the oranges and yogurt.

School staff and students enjoying a lunch menu created to meet new standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia. U.S. Department of Agriculture photo by Lance Cheung via Flickr.

U.S. school food has earned a bad rep—much of it deserved. For decades, many school cafeterias relied on high-calorie processed foods: think frozen fish sticks, plastic-wrapped cookies, and plates devoid of fresh fruits and veggies. At the same time, budget-strapped administrators allowed vending machines to be stocked with soda and junk food. Many students ate diets packed with fat and sugar, and short on key nutrients like fiber. The consequences have become apparent: experts have speculated that American kids might be the first generation in history to die younger than their parents—and obesity is to blame.

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If the new season has put a spring in your step, it might be because longer days naturally replenish your vitamin D. Your body needs this fat-soluble vitamin to function properly, as it affects many areas of your body, including your bones, brain, immune system, and muscles. But unlike many other vitamins, it’s easier to get your daily dose from an afternoon stroll than the foods you eat. Click through the slideshow to learn more about how vitamin D is one of the most important and fascinating nutrients you consume—and make!—on a daily basis.

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Closing the Nutrition Gap for America’s Kids

Why are so many children undernourished in one of the richest countries on Earth?

Low-cost, high-calorie foods help kids avoid hunger. But they skimp on necessary nutrients.

Try tapping the word “rickets” into a smartphone and you may find that the autocorrect tool has other ideas. If you haven’t come across the word lately, it might be because the United States began to fortify foods with vitamins and minerals long before smartphones were invented, all in an attempt to eradicate conditions like rickets. However, deficiencies in some micronutrients, like iron and vitamin D, have persisted, even among children. That means for a significant number of American kids, malnutrition is still a reality.

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