lunchroom lessons - teach healthy eating habits

 

Teachers care about their students just about as much as their parents do.  And like any good parent teachers across the country have noticed the decline in children’s health due to overweight and obesity issues.  However, unlike parents they have directly witnessed students’ in-school eating behavior, which has become a growing concern as child obesity has steadily risen.
                It is now evident that the school lunchroom is where some of the damage is being done.  Out of the watchful eye of their parents kids are free to make nutritional choices on their own.  Studies have shown that when given healthy options kids will take them.  The only problem in U.S. schools is that many of the options available to students aren’t healthy.
                There are multiple culprits that get the finger of blame pointed at them.  It’s up to students, parent, health officials and teachers to raise their voices and bring needed change to our lunchrooms for the health of our students.  Below are the areas that need to be improved in our lunchrooms.  Armed with this information we can begin helping our schools make better nutritional decisions so that students can do the same.

The Lunch Room Food Selection
Though the USDA has guidelines for lunch menus its standards are outdated.   Luckily the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act is addressing the issues of renewing the standards for snacks and beverages offered with lunch meals.  And studies have shown that improvements are definitely needed.  When compared to home packed lunches the school lunches fell short totaling an average of 31 grams of fat whereas home packed lunches only had 21 grams.

The Vending Machines
Being able to add items a la carte is one of the major problems with school lunchroom offerings and where a lot of nutritional concerns come into play.  Though the lunchroom meals are regulated by USDA standards the vending machines aren’t.  A Center for Science in the Public Interest study showed that most of the items offered were highly unhealthy.  Of the food choices 80% were “junk food” like candy and chips while the beverage options were no better with 75% consisting of soda and imitation juices.

The School Run Snack Stores
            These small stores or snack bars, usually located in the lunchroom or near it, are operated by the school but that hasn’t affected the nutritional value of what’s being offered.  The choices are the same as vending machines giving students another temptation to ignore their health over their junk food cravings.  It’s very plausible that at the middle school level, where snack stores become more prominent, these stores have helped lead to students on a whole eating less healthy food like milk and vegetables in place of eating more high fat foods and sugar loaded beverages.

The Solution

                Change is underway now that an overwhelming amount of research has shown how much improvement needs to made in the health of our youth.  That change will only continue if we speak up and demand change.  Get parents, students and teachers involved together to bring attention to the issue and find solutions for your school.  Have interactive meetings with the school board to distribute information, brain storm and take action.

This is not just a local problem though it is also a state and national level problem.  Contact your state representatives armed with information that they can’t ignore.  Start petitions and proposals for improvements that can also help your case in arguing for better food choices in school lunch rooms.  The internet is also a fantastic resource, not only for information but for spreading the knowledge.  There are numerous organization and groups that can be joined online for additional support and ideas.