ALEXANDRIA, La. (WNTZ) — Rapides Parish Public Schools are gearing up to mark National School Lunch Week, a nationwide initiative running from October 9-13, 2023. Aimed at recognizing the importance of the National School Lunch Program, the district is set to celebrate this significant week with a variety of events under the creative theme, “Level Up with School Lunch.” The campaign highlights the pivotal role a nutritious school lunch plays in a student’s overall success, both academically and personally.

One of the key events planned for this week is a special luncheon at Rapides Training Academy on Wednesday, October 10th, at 11 a.m. District leaders, including Superintendent Jeff Powell, Assistant Superintendents Shannon Alford, and Clyde Washington, will gather at the academy to share a meal with students, emphasizing the significance of healthy eating habits in their lives.

The celebration comes in the wake of a new study led by researchers at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. The study revealed that American children are receiving their healthiest meals at school compared to other sources. The analysis, covering meals consumed between 2003 and 2018, pointed out that schools have become the healthiest places for Americans to eat, especially for children. With schools offering a variety of nutritious options, children are receiving balanced and wholesome meals, contributing significantly to their overall health and well-being.

The research highlighted that meals with the lowest nutritional quality were primarily sourced from restaurants, where 65% of adult meals and 80% of children’s meals were deemed of poor quality. On the other hand, school meals demonstrated a remarkable improvement in nutritional quality, decreasing from 57% poor quality in 2003 to a mere 24% in 2018. This significant shift towards healthier school meals underscores the positive impact of federal policies like the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which mandated stronger nutrition standards in schools.

Dean of the Friedman School and senior author of the study, Dariush Mozaffarian, emphasized the importance of these findings, especially in light of the ongoing efforts to reopen schools safely. He stated, “Schools are now the single healthiest place Americans are eating… Our results suggest substantial nutritional harms for millions of kids who have not been consistently receiving meals at school and must rely on other sources.”

Despite this positive trend, it’s crucial to note that school meals only account for 9% of a child’s yearly caloric intake. Hence, the need to maintain healthy eating habits outside of school is paramount.

Rapides Parish Public Schools continue to be at the forefront of promoting healthy eating habits, not only during National School Lunch Week but throughout the academic year. The district encourages students and their families to make nutritious choices, ensuring a healthier future for everyone in the community. For further information, please contact Mary Helen Downey at