This past semester I took a course in Social and Political Issues at Antioch University. One assignment for the course was to research a topic with a partner and present it to our class. The topic that we chose was the role of nutrition in our schools. I presented the view of an administrator, the federal guidelines that are set for schools, and the curriculum that needs to be followed. My partner presented herself as a concerned parent of a fourth grader, who was played by her five year old confident daughter.
Through this research I learned a lot about the role of nutrition in schools and the history and purpose behind it. The National School Lunch Program that began in 1946 was designed to provide low cost or free lunch for school children. This program was designed to follow the dietary guidelines in order to insure that children are eating appropriate and nutritious food. These guidelines follow the food pyramid and make sure that meals have no more then 30 percent of an individuals calories coming from fat. By the end of the first year about 7.1 million children were participating in the program. By 1970, 22 million children were participating; in 1980, 27 million children; in 1990, over 24 million children, and in the year 2006, more than 30.1 million children received their lunch through the National School Lunch Program. The cost of this program has risen dramatically. In 1947 the total cost of the program was 70 million, compared to 8.2. Billion in 2006. In order for families to qualify for this program their income needs to be below 130 percent of the poverty level for free meals. Families with income between 130-185 percent are eligible for reduced lunches and families can not be charged more then 40 cents per lunch. Soon the breakfast program was offered due to the increasing number of students who came to school without breakfast
In 1966, the Child Nutrition Act, became the “Highest Priority” . This was due to evidence that poor eating habits that develop during childhood will follow into adulthood and have a potential to last a life time. It is important for children to learn the benefits of good nutrition and to make good choices as to what they eat. In 1993, the FDA required that the food industry needed to include saturated fat and dietary cholesterol on their labels so that the consumer would be able to know the health benefits or risks before they eat or drink the product.
The year 2000 was a big year for health objectives for the nation, and that was to “reduce fat intake” in Americans and the Educate America Act was designed to increase student knowledge of nutrition. This act provides students with health education and physical education to insure that they are healthy and fit. Children will be educated about proper nutrition, based on dietary guidelines form the food pyramid in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The USDA established Team Nutrition to help schools implement the new requirements in school meals. This program offers training for school personal, helps develop and implement school polices that will make healthy food available, and develops and sends home monthly menus for parents. The [program also helps schools gain access to the community for nutrition services.
State curriculums vary in each state but they do need to follow the guidelines that are set by the government and there needs to be a planned and documented program of health instruction for students kindergarten through twelfth grade, a curriculum that educates a range of categories of health problems and their issues. These courses need to be taught be professionals who are educated in the field and there is encouragement for involvement of family members, health professionals, and community members. Most programs that have resulted in behavioral change have used teaching strategies based on the Social Learning Theory. This theory teaches students to put values on food and exercise, identifying the benefits of healthy food and exercise, and encourages them to taste different foods. The teaching staff should be role models for healthy choices while they are in school, empathizing the importance of exercising and eating healthy food.
The curricula educates students about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, community environmental and consumer health, violence and injury protection, nutrition and physical activity, and personal health concepts such as family, social, mental and sexual. Students are assessed in their ability to set goals for a healthy life style, including assessing information and knowing how to find valid health information and services, making healthy choices, and decision making skills that will enhance their health, problem solving, and the knowledge of the core subjects.
Through this research I learned a lot about the history of the Federal Meal Plan, the Educate America Act, and the role of the government in setting guidelines for all our children to ensure that they are educated and have the knowledge of the importance of making healthy and nutritious choices.