Eliminating Processed Foods in Public School Cafeterias: The New Trend
Pilot Program in Illinois Turns Children into Fans of Fruits and Vegetables
At East Elementary School in Alton, Illinois, students sample a different fruit or vegetable every day during a designated snack time. The Chicago Tribune reports that thanks to a grant from the Produce for Better Health foundation, which administers funds distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, East Elementary School teachers have the opportunity to offer their students a different fruit or vegetable every day.
- Reduced consumption of high-fat and high-calorie foods
- Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables
- Better attention spans
- Fewer classroom discipline problems
- Fewer visits to the school nurse
- Less hunger throughout the day
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- Child Nutrition Act up for reauthorization – Congress is set to reexamine and possibly overhaul school nutrition programs in 2010 when it reauthorizes the Child Nutrition Act. Reuters reports that in December, 16 lawmakers filed a bill proposing that the updated Act allocate $150 million to the task of bringing more fresh produce into schools. $20 million would be allotted to schools to purchase salad bars, as well as $100 million to upgrade cafeteria equipment. $20 million in grants would be available for schools that chose to participate in a “farm to school” program to purchase fresh produce.
- National Academy of Sciences recommendation – The National Academy of Sciences released a report in October 2009 recommending that schools increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they serve in meals, according to Reuters.
- President Obama supports more funding for child nutrition – President Obama has made it clear that improving school children’s nutrition is a priority for his administration. The First Lady Michelle Obama has also helped to increase national focus on school food. Her efforts to reduce childhood obesity, dubbed the Healthy Kid Initiative, focus on improving school lunches, along with increasing supports for community gardens and farmers’ markets, according to the New York Times.It appears that 2010 may be the year when American school children begin to experience an important shift in the quality of food they are offered at school. As national concerns about obesity and educational achievement continue to loom large, such a shift will likely be welcome indeed.