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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Back to School: Getting Up to Date with Required Vaccinations
Stay up to date on the current requirements for vaccinations for school-age children today, as well as some of the problems schools face when parents do not properly immunize their kids.
In the back-to-school bustle of filling backpacks and shopping for new school clothes, parents often forget about one of the most important components of back-to-school preparations – updating children’s vaccine records. However, rising cases of pertussis in some areas of the U.S. is a painful reminder of why vaccinations are so important in preventing potentially deadly outbreaks among school-age children. Learn about the latest on vaccine protocol for students and why those shots are so essential for the health of the child and the entire student population.

Why Kids aren’t Vaccinated

Despite rules by school districts to bring immunizations up to date before students can be registered for the fall semester, some students enter school without ever getting a shot. Parents can opt-out of immunizations for their children for religious or medical reasons. According to a report at San Francisco Gate, the number of parents making that choice could be on the rise – at least in some areas of the country.

For example, the number of students entering school without proper vaccinations has increased slightly in North Dakota, although the total number is still quite small. During the 2008-2009 school year, the number of students without vaccinations was just 1.2 percent in public schools and 3.1 percent in private schools. By the 2011-2012 school year, that number had risen to 1.6 percent in public schools and 4.5 percent in private schools.
The Berkeley Patch explains that a higher rate of unvaccinated children could be due in part
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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 beverages that
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No More “Pink Slime” on the Menus of Many Public Schools
(“Pink slime,” a beef byproduct that has been getting plenty of attention in the media of late, is now leaving many public schools nationwide in light of all the negative publicity. We’ll take a look at a few of the school districts saying goodbye to the product.
A beef filler product, dubbed “pink slime” in recent weeks, has been used in grocery store meats for nearly a decade. The byproduct has also been an ingredient in many school lunch menus, although children and parents were unaware of this fact until fairly recently. Now, the pink slime debate is in full fervor, and school districts nationwide are responding to concerns by doing away with beef filler completely. While this makes some parents breathe a sigh of relief, it is also making some districts dig deeper into their pockets to foot the bill for meat that may be healthier, but is also more expensive.

What is “Pink Slime”?

According to a report at Reuters, pink slime refers to a mix of fatty beef byproducts that were typically reserved for pet food and cooking oil in the past. The scrap meat is mixed with bits of cartilage and connective tissue, and then chemically treated to kill bacteria and make it edible. Ammonia is the chemical of choice, which has many food advocates up in arms about the safety of the product, particularly when it is served to children in schools.

The product was approved for use by the USDA, which dubbed it “lean, finely textured beef.” The agency continues to claim the meat is safe, and the American Meat Institute says it is 98 percent beef.  However, those statements are not enough to satisfy many who have been turned off on the idea of consuming beef byproducts in their
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Free Meals for All Students in Some Detroit Schools
Learn about a pilot program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would offer two free meals and snacks to all Detroit Public School students daily – a controversial decision for some taxpayers.
Many of the students in Detroit Public Schools live below the poverty line, which means they qualify for free meals at school. However, some will skip those free meals to avoid the stigma of a “low-income” student, according to some school officials. To combat the problem, the city will take part in a pilot program that offers free meals to all students in Detroit Public Schools, beginning in the upcoming school year.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Eligibility Option Program
The Community Eligibility Option Program introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is designed for schools in high-poverty areas, allowing them to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students and eliminate the need for excessive paperwork.
“Community eligibility is a great way for schools to cut through burdensome red tape for themselves and low-income families so that children in high-poverty areas have access to the nutrition they need to learn and thrive,” Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon stated in a press release on the USDA website. “Schools will benefit from reduced paperwork, parents will not have to fill out duplicative forms, and children in need will get better access to healthy school meals.”
The USDA selected three states to launch the pilot program during the 2011-2012 school year - Michigan, Illinois, and Kentucky - according to a report at ABC12. Currently, Detroit is the only city in Michigan that has officially signed on with the program. However, other school districts in the state can qualify if they
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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 foods and enjoy
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Health and Nutrition at School