How can parents get involved in school meal programs?

Review cafeteria menus with your child and be encouraging about trying new items.  Try new food - especially fruits and vegetables - at home and your child may be more willing to try these foods at school.

Visit the school cafeteria to make your own observations and have lunch.  Please check in with the school's main office before going to the cafeteria.

Are school meals nutritious?

School meals are well-balanced meals that are required to meet science-based, federal nutrition standards.

  • No more than 30% of calories can come from fat, less than 10% from saturated fat.
  • School meals are served in age appropriate portions.

In Tacoma, every lunch provides a variety of menu choices.

  • Milk - 1% white & nonfat chocolate
  • Vegetables & fruits - several choices each day, often locally or regionally grown
  • Grains - whole grain items like rolls, sandwich bread, rice & pasta
  • Meat or meat alternate - chicken, beef, turkey, beans, cheese, yogurt

Each student must select a fruit or vegetable daily and may have an unlimited amount if they choose.

Are school meals safe?

School nutrition professionals care for the students they serve, and through strict food safety procedures and staff training, maintain a superior safety record while providing nutritious meal to thousands of Tacoma students each day.

Why should I encourage my child to eat school meals?

Providing students their choice of milk, fruits and vegetables, grains and proteins, are a great value and convenience for parents.  School cafeterias offer students a variety of healthy choices and help children learn how to assemble a well balanced meal.  Federal regulations require that meals be served in age appropriate portions.

Don't school meals contain processed foods?

What have come to be known as "processed foods" in schools are increasingly prepared with healthier ingredients, as well as less fat and sugar.

  • Pizzas are made with whole grain crusts, low-sodium sauce and reduced fat cheese.
  • Chicken nuggets and patties use whole grain breading and are baked, not fried.
  • Potato products, such as French fries, are baked, not fried.

My child's school has vending machines.  Are the foods sold in those machines subject to the same regulations as school meals?

All school meals are required to meet federal nutrition standards.  Foods that are served through school vending machines are required to meet the federal standards for snacks.  Fundraisers, class parties, etc., are not required to meet federal nutrition standards.  These items are increasingly being subjected to local and state policies that require nutrition standards.  In Tacoma, these items are regulated through our district's School Board approved Nutrition and Wellness Policy #6700R.

What are the beverage options with school meals?

In Tacoma 1% white and non-fat chocolate milk are offered with each meal.  School meals offer flavored milk as an option because experts agree that to ensure intake of calcium, vitamin D, protein and other nutrients important for growth and development, it is better for children and adolescents to drink flavored milk than to avoid milk altogether.

Are local food sources utilized for school meals?

Many of the fruits and vegetables served are locally or regionally produced.  Milk is purchased from a locally owned dairy.  Bakery items are obtained from a regional producer.  The Tacoma School District is currently studying the feasibility of further increasing the amount of local foods purchased.

Do all students have access to school meal programs?

All students in Tacoma may purchase meals, meeting federal nutrition standards, but families at or below 185% of the poverty level are eligible for free or reduced price meals.  Families may complete applications for free or reduced price meals at any time during the school year.  Families may apply on line through the district website.  Paper applications are available at all school offices or the Nutrition Services Department.