The recent changes to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act reinforces the role states, districts and schools play in not only providing students with healthy and nutritious meals, but educating students and their parents regarding better food choices.
With the increased flexibility in spending school lunch dollars, comes the opportunity to right the historic wrongs of the American school system and prioritize the creation of educated food consumers. School administrators must ensure that students and parents not be left out of the conversation regarding student nutrition habits, such as why fewer students are eating breakfast and lunch as well as addressing food and packaging waste. Furthermore, administrators must learn to be flexible in developing solutions.
Regardless of which camp you follow in this complicated issue, nutrition guidelines will work when those benefitting understand their intent and play a role in their implementation. Let’s be very clear, the next generation is facing the consequences of poor dietary choices – obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Students, along with their parents and caregivers, deserve to be part of the school nutrition conversation.
But, a word of caution – giving in and serving poor quality food because kids won’t eat nutritious meals is the wrong decision in our homes and is no better for our schools. After all, if our taste buds don’t mature after age 5 because they are infantilized at school, the appropriate maturation process is stunted and we train adults to eat like children.
Over the last 13 years, almost 300 young HealthCorps Coordinators working in some of the toughest high schools in America have witnessed the impact of engaging students in improving their own and their friends and family’s health and well-being. They have also witnessed the impactful work of their many creative partners like the Houston Food Bank Apollo Market and Brian Wansink’s Smarter Lunchrooms. When you engage those that have a stake in the outcomes – wonderful things happen!
School administrators should embrace the new flexibility that have been awarded to them and focus on solutions that are working now and continue to empower young people to discover the cornucopia of healthy choices so they take charge of their health and destiny.