July 1, 2009

Healthy Changes Ahead in School Food Nutrition Policies?

Can we feed kids healthy foods in the school cafeteria and not raid schools’ piggy banks? According to a 6/29/09 Washington Post article, YES, WE CAN! Dietitian Ginger Gray did just this in Kenton County, Kentucky replacing chips, sugary fruit drinks and other less-than-healthy pickings with healthier options. Amazingly Gray’s and similar efforts by others in Kentucky and California had more kids lining up for breakfast and lunch. Result? More dollars in the school coffers stealing away the biggest argument against healthier food choices from parents, sports enthusiast and school staff.

Another Kentuckian, Janey Thornton, as Undersecretary for Food and Nutrition Services at USDA is part of the effort to tighten the nutrition standards in this year’s Reauthorization of Federal Child Nutrition programs which includes: The School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program, Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and others. Debate about this legislation is again bringing up the question of whether sugary drinks, fried snack foods and sweets can be rid from school cafeteria lines.

Many concerned about what we feed to kids have been down this road before, but the stars seemed to be aligned this time around for a few reasons: the rise in obesity among youth and obesity prevention efforts, the push on prevention and wellness in the healthcare reform discussion, the food industry is more willing to be part of the solution because they now have a wider array of products including healthier choices, and new Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools drafted upon request from Congress by Institutes for Medicine.

This is great news for our schools and our children. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that one of the most cost effective ways to address this obesity epidemic is by preventing the weight gain in the first place. I can think of no better place to start than with our children!