During childhood and adolescence, healthy eating patterns allow optimal health, lead to the prevention of immediate health problems such as obesity and dental caries, and also promote intellectual and physical growth. Dietary factors play a substantial role in preventing diseases and premature deaths in the U.S. School health programs can assist children and young people to achieve their full education capabilities and a good well-being through providing them with social support and skills they require to adopt long- term healthy eating conducts. The goals of the national health promotion and disease prevention are to encourage schools to offer nutrition education and devise school-based programs with the purpose of promoting healthy food to their students. Public schools in the United States adhere to these guidelines through providing them with balanced diets and opportunities to practice healthy eating.
Some of the strategies that schools in Willmar District have designed are the implementation of the District-Wide Wellness Policy to help them to achieve the goal of providing healthy food to their students, especially those in the K-12 grades. The aim of this policy is to establish a school environment that leads to the promotion and protection of the students’ well- being through supporting healthy eating habits and physical activities. The dedication of the schools to provide a healthy school environment stems from the recognition that nutrition and good health promote students’ attendance and academic success. An example of some of the steps that the schools have taken to fulfill this dedication is ensuring that each student in Pre K-12 is able to access different affordable, nutritive, and appealing food that conforms to the students’ nutritional and health needs as set by the health organization. The meal planning is also supposed to consider the religious, cultural, and other forms of diversities of the student body. Additionally, the schools ensure that clean and safe setting is provided for the meals.
Willmar district schools have also developed several guidelines on foods and drinks offered during the school day. For instance, all products and beverages available at schools should meet various nutritional requirements, in particular the present Dietary Guidelines for Americans set by the leading educational establishments. The foods and drinks are also required to reduce the usage of trans fats as well as saturated fats and sugars as described by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Additionally, the Food and Nutrition Services Departments are tasked with approving and providing all food and drink sales to elementary school students.
Another step that the schools have taken to ensure healthy eating of their students is eliminating the social stigma attached to students who use school foods with the prices that have been subsidized. For example, electronic identification and payments systems are used to give Pre-8 grade students breakfast meals free of charge irrespective of their income. There is also the promotion of the availability of school meals to each student and also modern means of serving school meals like classroom breakfast.
Miami district schools have developed a policy that ensures the provision of evidence-based education programs to allow students to develop healthy habits that are beneficial to cardiovascular conditioning, strength, and coordination among other aspects of their health. For instance, there is the provision of physical education for grades K-12 that entails periods of weekly instruction in physical education for respective grades. Nutrition education is also required to be taught by means of physical education in grades K-12. Further nutrition-centered education involves an emphasis on the significant goal-setting and positive decision- making strategies that lead to the enhancement of health, including those related to food consumption and energy usage. Another strategy has been the promotion of healthy food choices on the school premises by providing the relevant nutrition information to all students.
Miami-Dade county schools have planned the rules concerning food and beverages sold in schools. To implement those rules, school boards have enacted different regulations such as selling drinks apart from milk and juices in not more than 12 ounces, being served in middle and elementary schools. Plain water should also be catered for on elementary, middle, and high school levels. The food and snacks that are offered at schools should meet the standards, such as having less than 35% of total calories from fat and 10% from saturated fats. The products also should not have more than 35% of added sugar weight; there should not be added trans-fat but the whole-grain- rich products. The foods or snacks should also be a combination of food containing a minimum of ¼ cup of fruits and vegetables. The snacks sold should not have above 200 calories and not more than 230 mg of sodium.
The provision of healthy foods and the implementation of health and nutrition programs by public school face several challenges, especially the scarcity of financial resources. This is because students of public schools come from different financial backgrounds and they all have to be included in these healthy programs notwithstanding their financial capabilities. The schools, however, have demonstrated their willingness to provide students with healthy food despite the financial challenges. The schools have had to formulate various strategies to ensure that there are adequate resources to guarantee that the students are offered affordable useful and nutritional foods. School districts in California have funding incentives with the purpose of enrolling students from low-income families to provide them with healthy food and affordable education.
The 2013 Local Control Funding Formula aimed to simplify and rationalize the distribution of school funding from the state that comprises approximately 30% of school district budgets. The Local Control Funding Formula offers base funding for every student in a school district and supplemental funds for students from low-income families that are really in need. Districts that have above 55% of students being in need are given extra concentration funds. Every student can participate in the school nutrition program, but students from families whose income is below 130% of the federal poverty line are entitled to have free meals. Students from families whose income is between 30% and 185% respectively qualify for the low-cost meals. State laws require the provision of minimum one nutritionally adequate meal for each needy student every school day.
Parents have a big impact on their children’s eating choices. Children tend to imitate and learn much from what their parents do, so not surprisingly, the choice of food is one of those lessons. Parents may directly or indirectly support or not support the efforts undertaken by schools to offer healthy foods to their children. The habits of feeding junk food and other unhealthy food to their children may be one of those indirect ways of showing the lack of support. Encouraging their children to eat healthy food through habitual feeding of such food at home is a way of supporting healthy foods even at schools. Therefore, the healthy eating ethos both within and outside the school should be encouraged as a social norm.
Findings from a study that was conducted to investigate the views of parents in relation to the provision of healthy foods and snacks in schools revealed that parents readily support a healthy environment. The respondents stated that a healthy school atmosphere should entail healthy food choices and one that supports or encourages these choices. The study also showed that the support from the teachers, parents, and administrators is an important factor in the achievement of a successful implementation of a local wellness policy. There would be multiple challenges in the implementation, management, and evaluation of wellness policy in schools if there is a lack a supportive team. The best methods to achieve the goals of the local wellness program and foster the need of the team were indicated as a need to include adequate training. Schools should, therefore, liaise with the health sector to provide parents with the relevant information on nutrition standards and how they can help in the implementation of those standards.
In conclusion, school-based programs are important in the promotion of healthy eating, and many public schools take reasonable measures to guarantee that their students have access to food that conforms to all local, federal, and state guidelines. Some of those strategies include establishing rules that the foods and beverages of certain types available to the students should be adequate in terms of the standards established by the health sector. However, there are several challenges that schools may face as they strive to provide their students with healthy food. The lack of financial resources is an especially urgent problem. Despite these challenges, schools have demonstrated their willingness to cater for healthy food options in order to satisfy the students’ needs. The promotion of healthy nutrition within schools is more successful when parents support their children in their attempts to form and adhere to useful eating habits.
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