Big News For School Lunches

Popular food manufacturing brand Kraft Heinz is going back to school, offering a popular item to school cafeterias. Most parents are probably familiar with the popular Lunchables product line, a historically kid-friendly and convenient way to pack a lunch. Now, Lunchables will be offered to students from the school cafeteria- with a caveat.

Though subsidies for school lunches come from local, state, and federal funding, the USDA oversees what can and cannot be served to children who purchase lunch from the school cafeteria. In recent years, overhauls have vastly changed the menus at most schools nationwide. Limiting sugars, carbohydrates, preservatives and offering dairy, nut, and gluten free options are just a few of the ways that schools serve children and help create healthier meals. Unfortunately, many school districts’ budgets have not kept up with the changes, and districts struggle to provide cafeteria options that are both filling and adhere to USDA guidelines.

USDA compliant Lunchables for schools marketing slide. Credit: Kraft Heinz
USDA compliant Lunchables for schools marketing slide. Credit: Kraft Heinz

The National School Lunch Program provides meals to 30 million students in grades K-12 all across the United States. For some children, a school lunch may be the only substantial meal a child eats in a 24 hour period. Millions of families struggle with hunger, food insecurity, or live in a “food desert”- an area that does not have a full grocery store with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Parents can usually find Lunchables products even in convenience stores or online, and the prepackaged meals in the sectioned tray remain popular to send to school or take a long for a day trip. These items are inexpensive and parents enjoy a “grab-and-go” alternative. Parents will be shocked to learn, however, that Lunchables products do not meet the USDA guidelines for school lunches. That is, until now.

Kraft Heinz has launched a new line called Kraft Heinz Away From Home. Favorite Lunchables combinations, like Turkey & Cheese Crackers and Pizza have been revamped to align with the national guidelines. Sold directly to schools, daycares, and other facilities that adhere to the National School Lunch Program standards, and not alongside the traditional Lunchables Varieties in retail stores, the new school lunch friendly Lunchables will allow schools to offer a compliant lunch at an attractive price to schools. These products, labeled “Lunchables: Now Built For Schools” will show up in cafeterias nationwide at the beginning of next school year.

While this is good news for many children, parents may be left wondering why they cannot purchase these USDA compliant meals at their neighborhood retail establishment. What do you think? Should parents be able to purchase the healthier version, or will the traditional consumer variants continue to reign supreme at the Cool Kids Table?

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