Schools are the Right Place for a Healthy StartPosted on by
Schools are part of our communities and the right place for a healthy start. Our children spend the vast majority of their day at school, so schools play a critical role in all aspects of their lives and can shape lifelong healthy eating habits. Additionally, giving students access to healthy foods in school can help them be better learners. Students who eat breakfast perform and behave better in school. Skipping breakfast, not eating enough fruits, vegetables, or dairy products; not getting specific nutrients, like vitamins A, C, and calcium; or just being hungry can have a negative effect on a student’s academic achievement.
Schools can create supportive nutrition environments by ensuring that the available food and beverage options are healthy and by helping young people eat foods that meet dietary recommendations for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat or low-fat dairy products. Beginning in school year 2014-2015, the new Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards require all foods sold to students at school must meet the nutrition standards. This includes competitive foods, which are foods and beverages sold or served outside of the school meal programs, such as in vending machines, in school stores, and at school functions.
There is a role for everyone in helping students stay healthy and become successful. School districts can use local school wellness policies to implement nutrition standards for competitive foods. Parents, teachers, and community members can participate in wellness councils to encourage leaders in schools to make healthier choices available to students wherever foods and beverages are offered. Schools and school districts can read case studies, published by the Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI) and funded by CDC, that highlight strategies used to overcome challenges to improve nutrition standards for competitive food and beverages without significant negative financial impact.
To learn more about creating healthy schools and supportive nutrition environments, visit www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/npao.
By Holly Hunt, MA
Chief, School Health Branch
Division of Population Health
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention