National Nutrition Month at School: Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day!
By Annelise Cohon and Lisa Sharma Creighton, NEA Health Information Network
"Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day," that’s the March National Nutrition Month 2013 theme. In celebration of the observance we’d like to share three ways you can work to promote good nutrition at your school by increasing access to school breakfast, ensuring all food sold in school is healthy, and encouraging nutrition education and physical activity at school.
(1) Increase access to school breakfast. Research confirms that eating breakfast at school helps children learn. When students are hungry, they struggle academically and are at risk for long-term health issues. In the U.S., 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Below are important resources for teachers, principals and administrators, and parents to increase access to school breakfast and positively impact hunger.
- Teachers: The NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN) hears from educators who are on the frontlines of hunger. We created the “Start School with Breakfast: A Guide to Increasing School Breakfast Participation” in partnership with Share Our Strength to promote alternative breakfast service models, such as breakfast in the classroom, grab n’ go and 2nd chance breakfast. Within the Guide is information about the benefits of school breakfast, new ways to increase school breakfast participation, useful tools for advocates and success stories from other districts.
- Principals and Administrators: The National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation (NAESPF) has a number of resources for principals implementing breakfast in the classroom programs and for principals interested in getting breakfast in the classroom started in their schools. Also, the American Association of School Administrators’ (AASA) newest publication, School Governance & Leadership, focuses on engaging Superintendents to promote alternative school breakfast programs.
- Parents: Take action in your community and advocate for the health and wellbeing of all children. The National PTA’s “Advocacy Toolkit” is a great resource that provides step-by-step directions to help you reach out to policy makers. Contact your local representative and tell them to protect and expand funding for the School Breakfast Program and other Federal food assistance programs.
(2) Ensure all food in school is healthy. Studies show that the top sources of calories for school-age children and teens are pizza, sugary desserts like cakes and cookies, and sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and fruit drinks. Sadly, this type of unhealthy fare is widely available in U.S. schools.
During the 2009-10 school year, 76% of high school students, 63% of middle school students, and 47% of elementary school students could buy unhealthy snack foods at school. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks, and high-calorie fruit drinks, were also common.
At the same time, research shows that restricting sales of unhealthy snacks and beverages in schools can improve children’s diets, reduce weight gain, and even increase school food service revenues.
That’s why NEA HIN launched www.BagtheJunk.org, a new website that aims to educate, mobilize, and empower members of the school community to replace junk snack foods and sugary drinks with healthier options. The site features advocacy tools such as organizing tips, policy briefs, fact sheets, and sample letters along with current news, trends, and thoughts from experts in the field. Through guest blogs the site will also highlight projects from fellow LFA members, such as the American Association for School Administrators School Administrators for HEALing of Our Children and Youth project.
(3) Encourage nutrition education and physical activity. Today, nearly 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese. With childhood obesity at epidemic proportions, building good nutrition habits and physical activity skills must be a part of a well-rounded student education.
To help address this need, NEA HIN created Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives. These lesson plans are standards-based and provide classroom based resources designed to teach healthy eating, exercise, and a strong mind, all of which will help students develop healthy lifestyles.
We’re especially proud that all the lessons in Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives were pilot-tested by real teachers in real classrooms.
Another helpful resource is the National Association of State Boards of Education’s (NASBE) Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn series of school health policy guides, including the recently released Policies to Promote Healthy Eating and Policies to Promote Physical Activity and Physical Education chapters.
Good health habits are something to celebrate throughout the year. We hope you will join us—and thousands of educators nationwide—to promote good nutrition at your school! Post on NEA HIN’s Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #schoolfoodsrule and let us know what you plan to do for National Nutrition Month.
Editor's Note: This post is from our partners at the NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN). Each month, we feature a new column on a topic related to school health. Through this effort, we hope to inform the public of important health issues that impact schools and offer educators and parents resources to address them.
Image from the public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
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