Health and Nutrition at School

From vending machines to Jamie Oliver, bed bugs to tuberculosis, we provide an in-depth look at health and wellness in public schools. Help your kids stay healthy on campus and learn about current health epidemics, vaccination requirements, physical fitness programs and the latest food initiatives.
View the most popular articles in Health and Nutrition at School:
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Soda at School? More Districts are Just Saying No
As part of our on-going coverage of food reform in public schools, we report on the growing, nationwide trend by school districts to get sugary drinks out of schools – as well as the most recent evidence linking these beverages to a host of health issues.
Sugar-laden drinks like soda and some fruit juices have been linked to a wide range of ills, from the current obesity epidemic to the rising incidence of type II diabetes and heart disease in this country. The soda habit is one that frequently begins during youth, particularly for children that have the sugary drinks readily available at home or at school. Fortunately, many schools are taking a stand against allowing these types of drinks on their campuses, with fewer soda options available at public schools, according to a recent study.
Research Methodology
Recent research conducted by the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Chicago at Illinois indicates that the availability of sugary beverages at the elementary school level is on the decline. The study, conducted by Lindsey Turner and Frank Chaloupka, used the guidelines issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) when analyzing their research. The IOM recommends that schools only offer students water, 100-percent juice and non-fat and 1-percent milk on their beverage menus, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Turner and Chaloupka’s research looked at five years of surveys from public elementary schools nationwide. According to Reuters, researchers were able to compile data from hundreds of schools between 2007 and 2011. The information was provided by principals and food service workers that recorded the specific types of beverages available to students and precisely where in the school those beverages were sold.
What the Numbers Show
The research found that the number of students who could buy
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More Schools Making Healthy Food Choices in the Upcoming School Year
The trend of healthier cafeterias continues to blossom, with more schools making over their lunches. Tune into some of the latest initiatives that have our children’s health at heart.
Weight issues among children have become such a problem in this country that some experts are mulling over whether to deem obesity an actual epidemic. According to a report at Explorer News, the number of overweight children in the United States has doubled over the past three decades. Nearly 25 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 are considered obese by current standards. When children gain too much weight during their younger years, they are at much higher risk for conditions like heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. Schools have recognized the obesity problem in this country, and many are taking steps to address the issue right in their own school lunchrooms.
Bringing Nutrition to the Classroom
From coast to coast, schools across the country have taken the necessary steps to ensure their students are treated to nutritious foods throughout the school day. From removing sugar-laden drinks and snacks from vending machines to stocking school cafeterias with an array of nutritious fare, these institutions of learning are taking the obesity scare to heart. Some are even providing their students with home-grown produce, thanks to agreements with local farmers or gardens right on school property.
Students are learning how to make healthier food choices and discovering that nutrition-packed fruits, vegetables and whole grains can actually make for a tasty meal. Some schools are incorporating taste tests or time in the garden with their classrooms to encourage students to try new
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Jamie Oliver: Is His Food Revolution Changing America's Public Schools?
Jamie Oliver started in West Virginia public schools, revamping their cafeteria conundrums. Now he's fighting with the LA Unified School District, and some are wondering if this star chef can really revolutionize unhealthy schools.
Photo Credit: Jamie Oliver
Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States, and the incidences of diseases related directly to weight continue to rise. To help combat this problem, English chef Jamie Oliver has created his own form of "reality television," heading into the lunchrooms of public schools across the country in an attempt to transform the way Americans look at and eat foods from a young age. Oliver's program, "Food Revolution," spent its first season inside schools in West Virginia, transforming school lunches and breakfasts into healthier fare. During the second season, Oliver planned to bring his healthy food program to schools in Los Angeles – but sometimes, things don't go quite the way we plan.

The Conflict

Jamie Oliver had planned to head into the school cafeterias in Los Angeles in a similar fashion to the way he moved into West Virginia schools – getting a full assessment of the current condition of lunches and breakfasts served through the school system. However, Los Angeles schools were not as willing to comply with Oliver's requests, and his cameras were denied access completely to any Los Angeles school cafeterias. Administrators for the schools said on a Wall Street Journal blog that previous negative experience with reality TV shows left them unwilling to bring any more drama to the Los Angeles school stage.
"This is not a boutique cafe operation," outgoing Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines told Oliver in February. "I do not believe
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Salad Bars Grow in Number in Public Schools
Public school cafeterias are growing their salad bars, much to the delight of students' healthy bodies. Learn more about this growing movement driven forth by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Forget the days of "pigs-in-a-blanket" and pizza for lunch. Today's public schools are hopping on the fruits and veggies bandwagon with more salad bars coming to schools this year. First Lady Michelle Obama's effort to get children to eat a more nutritious fare at schools has resulted in a lofty goal to bring salad bars to 6,000 schools across the country. The new program, dubbed, "Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools," was kicked off at Riverside Elementary School in Miami, Florida this month, according to Colorlines.
In addition to being the first elementary school in the country to enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables the new salad bar offers, the school also received a visit from the First Lady herself. Mrs. Obama offered words of encouragement to the students to adopt healthier lifestyle habits that begin with eating the right foods. Mrs. Obama told the Riverside students that eating vegetables and fruits was important not just in developing their physical health, but their brain power as well.
"There are studies that show that kids who are eating their fruits and vegetables on a regular basis actually do better in school. Did you all know that?" Mrs. Obama was reported on to ask the crowd. The students responded with a resounding, "Yes!"
The Choice of Riverside

Riverside Elementary was chosen to be the first school in this initiative because students in the school have begun growing their own garden, filled with tomatoes, eggplant and kale,
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Straight from School Gardens to Lunchrooms: Delicious or Dangerous?
School gardens have grown wildly in popularity, but should the harvest from these gardens be used in school cafeterias? Take a bite of the debate and learn about what the opponents and proponents say.
The CDC estimates that the incidence of childhood obesity has tripled in the last three decades, which makes weight one of the primary factors in children's health today. While school lunches may not be a primary culprit in the rise in obesity numbers, few parents and educators would argue that this daily fare could stand to be improved. One solution has been to add more fresh produce to the school lunch counter – some of which is coming from gardens grown right on school grounds. However, this approach to healthier eating is not without its share of opponents.

The Prevalence of School Gardens
According to a recent report on Mother Earth News, schools around the world are tuning into the many healthy advantages of growing their own fresh produce. Students are assisting with the planting, cultivating and harvesting of crops that they eat right in their own school lunchrooms. Classrooms take turns weeding, fertilizing and coaxing crops along, until the great harvest comes along and school cafeterias get to work finding delicious, healthy ways to use the fruits, vegetables and herbs the students had been growing.
To help schools along the way, the Green School Initiative, the Healthy Schools Initiative, Farm to School and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN offer step-by-step planting guides and information about how to incorporate the growing process into the classroom. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's Guide to Federal Funding for Local and Regional Food Systems will even help
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Health and Nutrition at School