A three-year study from Kaiser Permanente Southern California proved that a public-health approach in schools can go a long way in terms of improving child nutrition. By replacing our typical classroom pizza party with a healthy catering alternative, the school nutrition approach becomes more wholesome.
The study replaced food and beverage rewards in the classrooms with non-food prizes and held healthy fundraising events complete with "prize walks," a fun alternative to "cake walks." The results of this study are eye-opening and encouraging.
The researchers noted that schools actually made more money through healthy events such as jog-a-thons than carnivals with popcorn and pizza."
There was a 30 percent decrease in the amount of unhealthy foods and beverages consumed by students at these schools during the study, compared to a 26 percent increase at other schools.
The amount of healthy lunches students brought from home and other outside sources also increased at the intervention schools.
Children adapt to their surroundings, and I think the same is true for adults. If we see our schools making the effort to implement healthier practices, it's likely we'll follow suit. It may not be overnight, but if we keep at it, progress will certainly be made.
I find the last result to be particularly thrilling. Because of the changes made to parent/teacher events, parents begin to adjust their own eating/feeding habits. How empowering that a fun event we hold at school can make all the difference in what a parent decides to pack in that brown paper bag?
Obstacles such as federal funding can be disheartening, but perhaps we're over analyzing the situation. At the end of the day, we want our children to be educated and properly nourished. By implementing small changes to events and activities our schools already host and participate in, we can build a support system of teachers and parents that can only push these initiatives along faster and more effectively.
Here at Learning ZoneXpress, we are encouraged by this recent study and feel that schools across the country are making huge strides. We support the effort of creating healthy kids by providing supporting materials that reinforce the understanding of nutrition and encourage healthy choices. When developing these MyPlate nutrition resources, we ensure our messages are succinct and easy to understand. It's important that these health messages be easy to understand not only for children, but for parents and teachers as well.
Children are synonymous with the future. We have the power to influence that in such an incredible way, let's run with it. Let's get as many people on board as humanly possible. Let's improve school nutrition in a way no one person can.
If you are involved in your school's nutrition program, please share examples of what you are currently doing. Share with others your ideas and initiatives, so that they too, can make a difference in their own community.