Does Your Student Eat A Hot School Lunch Or Cold Junk?

The Child Nutrition and WIC Re-authorization Act of 2004 mandates that high schools have a local wellness policy and program in place by July 1, 2006, to promote more healthful food choices by students.

However, a recent study of 271 public high schools by Penn State researchers, published in the February issue of the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association,” names three reasons why some high school wellness programs already in place, aren’t working.

The study says:

1. 25% of the wellness program directors report that lunch periods are scheduled before 10:30 a.m. Early lunch periods produce higher a la carte sales.

2. A la carte sales generate almost $700 per day per school among schools surveyed, with $450 of that income coming from a la carte items that do not meet federal school meal requirements.

3. The existence of soft drink machines owned by soft drink companies correlated with a higher number of vending machines per student. The study showed that more vending machines reduced participation in the school hot lunch program.

75% of sodas and 85% of snacks sold in school vending machines are junk foods. Many schools have found that replacing junk foods with healthier foods and beverages, such as bottled water, yogurt, fruit, juice, etc., has not hurt the school revenue, and in some cases has actually increased revenue.

What can parents do?

Make sure you know how healthy your local school environment is and what needs to be improved. Visit with food service directors and ask these four questions:

1) What do kids eat when they are at school?

2) Is junk food readily available?

3) How much time is provided for physical activity? and

4) What can be done to make the school environment healthier?

Not all current school wellness programs restrict the sale of high-fat, high-sugar snacks and sodas during the school day. Know what your local school policy is, or will be, because proper nutrition greatly influences a student’s learning ability. Which of the three reasons named in the Penn State study could you improve at your student’s high school?

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