Healthier Foods at School

Janis G. Hunter
Home & Garden Information Center

Thousands of school-age children have returned to classrooms throughout South Carolina. Because their academic performance, growth, and good health are affected by what they eat, food of good nutritional content should be available to them at school. Nutritious food should be served in cafeteria meals and also made available whenever and wherever food is sold or otherwise offered at school. Vending machines, school stores, concession stands, fundraisers, snacks and celebrations should include “Smart Choice” foods like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, and low-fat grain products.

As a result of South Carolina’s Student Health and Fitness Act of 2005 and mandated by its 2006 Wellness Policy, South Carolina is one of the few states that require school meals to meet higher nutritional standards than USDA requires. The state also has nutritional standards for foods sold in vending machines, as well as limitations on when and where these foods can be sold on school property. Some 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.

Children’s lifelong eating habits are influenced greatly by the types of food and beverages made available to them at school, yet 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.

To learn more about food options that are healthy, tasty, accessible and affordable, see HGIC 4111, Healthier Foods at School.

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