This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by J. G. Hunter, HGIC Nutrition Specialist, and K. L. Cason, Professor, State EFNEP Coordinator, Clemson University. (New 03/07.)
Healthy eating is important for growth, good health, and academic performance. However, kids are often overwhelmed with access and availability of foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium but low in nutrients. This increases their chances of obesity and a future of serious health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and orthopedic problems.
The types of food and beverages made available to kids greatly influence their lifelong eating habits. Foods of good nutritional content (e.g. fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, and low-fat grain products) should be served in cafeteria meals and also made available whenever and wherever food is sold or otherwise offered at school. Here are some suggestions for providing nutritious foods at school.
Vending Machines & School Stores: Most of the foods sold in vending machines are junk foods with few nutrients. Junk foods contain "empty calories," with most of the calories coming from fat and/or sugar.
Some vending machines also offer healthier options called "Smart Choice" foods. Schools and county governments are beginning to adopt healthy vending machine policies requiring food and beverages sold to meet specified nutrition standards. These standards address total calories, percent calories from fat and sugar, saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium per serving.
A general recommendation is to choose healthier options that have less than 6 grams of fat and less than 7 grams of sugar, or less than 40 percent added sugar by weight (not counting nuts, seeds and dried fruit). Healthier options also should contain less than 300 mgs of sodium per serving.
Here are a few vending machine food options that are healthy, tasty, accessible and affordable:
Vending machines containing food and beverages should not be placed in elementary schools. Machines in middle, junior high and high schools should contain only healthy snacks. Schools should not have vending service available during meal times, and preferably not within an hour before and after the meal service.
The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition assessed many vending and snack products and compared them to the Massachusetts A La Carte Food & Beverage Standards to Promote a Healthier School Environment. The Institute then developed an A-List of products that meet these standards. This list contains "A-cceptable" vending items listed by product and manufacturer and expands as food companies introduce new products to the marketplace. http://www.johnstalkerinstitute.org/vending%20project/healthysnacks.htm
(The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition is a partnership of the Massachusetts Department of Education, Nutrition Programs and Food Services, and Framingham State College.)
Beverages: Soft drink sales in schools are a growing concern. A regular 20-ounce soft drink contains "empty calories" and no nutrients. It has as much sugar as three average sized milk chocolate bars (1.55 ounces each) or 2½ cups of ice cream.
Kids are drinking more soft drinks, which is considered one of the key factors in the increase of childhood obesity. Teens drink twice as much soda as milk, and teen boys drink an average of three cans of soda a day.
Consider handling soft drink sales this way:
Provide students more access to healthy beverages such as:
*Set milk prices to be comparable to other vended beverage prices, and keep the machine well stocked with a variety of flavored milks, which are big sellers. Keep milk cool, below 42°F at all times.
"We determined collectively with our (School) Board that the health of our students was not for sale." National Speaker Ron Epps, Richland County, South Carolina School Superintendent (after turning down a contract with the soft drink industry).
Concession Stands: Sell these healthier alternatives at games and other school events with concessions:
Healthy foods are addictive. The more you eat them the more you want them.
Fundraisers: When fundraising supports student health, the school's health message demonstrates a commitment to promoting healthy behaviors among students, families, and the community.
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2000 reported that 82% of schools used food and beverages for fundraising activities. Of the schools studied: 76% sold chocolate candy; 67% sold cookies, crackers, cakes, pastries, or other baked goods; 63% sold candy other than chocolate; 37% sold soft drinks, sports drinks, or fruit drinks; and 28% sold fruits or vegetables.5
Consider These Healthy Foods, Non-food Items & Events for Your Next Fundraiser:
Food for Thought: You are teaching healthier options to improve the quality of life for kids and adults.
Snacks & Celebrations: Parents, as well as teachers, should provide healthy snacks and food for special celebrations (e.g. birthdays, Halloween, Valentine's Day). Healthy classroom snacks give kids a chance to try new foods they may not have at home. Some easy, nutritious snacks include:
Celebrations do not always have to include food. Here are a few non-food ideas:
For related information, refer to HGIC 4110, Non-Food Rewards for Kids.
Serving children unhealthy food is "penny wise and pound foolish." Poor nutrition today equals higher health costs tomorrow.
This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.