Healthy School Meals Can Boost Student Outcomes, Prevent Hunger
More than 18% of Texas children ages 10-17 are obese. Meanwhile, 1 in 4 youth in the state experience hunger. Either way, kids who don't get sufficient or nutritious meals start life at a serious disadvantage.
Nutrition is one of 10 components for the CDC's recommended Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model and it plays a large role in the well-being of a student. A nutritious diet can lead to healthy behaviors and better performance in school.
According to the School Nutrition Association, over 90% of federal school districts across the country offer more than the mandatory amount of whole grain products. While there is a push to continue improving nutrition in schools, many districts still have obstacles to overcome. What are the biggest challenges?
Students from low-income households are facing the possibility of additional barriers to access. A Trump administration proposal to reduce the number of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients by 3.1 million people could cause as many as 982,000 students to lose automatic eligibility for free school meals.
How would proposed SNAP cuts affect kids who rely on school meal programs throughout the year? What other options exist for families without the means to afford an adequate amount of food, let alone nutritious items?
How do vending machines factor into a nutritious diet for teens on school campuses? Are all food options provided in schools healthy? What do federal nutrition standards require?
What can schools, families and communities do to promote healthy eating behaviors? What barriers exist for school districts who want to improve menu options?
- Crystal FitzSimons, leads work on child-nutrition programs in schools for the Food Research & Action Center
- Diane Pratt-Heavner, director of media relations for the School Nutrition Association
- Brittany Crim, Ph.D., director of nutrition and program development at the Fitness Institute of Texas in the department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, December 5.