Education Vital Signs: Food & Nutrition
Education Vital Signs collection of reports on Food & Nutrition.
Schools Battle Hunger
Swept into children’s lives along with a rising tide of poverty that shows no signs of receding, hunger is haunting America’s classrooms. Linked to weakened immune systems, cognitive delays, anemia, slowed or abnormal growth, social-emotional concerns, and other challenges, hunger can devastate a child’s development and future life chances.
Religion and School Food
With the diversity of religious diet requirements, and potential for legal challenges to school action in this area, it is important for school district to understand the constitutional and practical considerations involved when requests are made to accommodate specialized religious diets.
Drought and School Food Prices
The drought of 2012 has inflicted untold damage on crops and communities. Districts, already grappling with upgraded federal standards for school meals, are bracing for the drought’s impact on their bottom line. The USDA estimates consumers will see a 3 percent to 4 percent increase in food prices next year.
Childhood obesity is a growing problem. According to some studies, an estimated 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are obese. At least one study has shown that overweight children were absent from school significantly more than normal-weight children. Obese children also may be at risk for social discrimination.
Feeding Hungry Children
Though guidelines are straightforward, enrolling qualified families into the federally subsidized meal program has been anything but for school districts. According to USDA research, districts registered just 80 percent of all eligible children last year. A new federal law, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, aims to change that.
Food Allergy Planning
A food allergy task force in the St. Louis area led by St. Louis Children’s Hospital was asked to develop a model school-based food allergy program. Months of research and conversation resulted in a set of recommendations in three areas: prevention, emergency management, and awareness resources.
Schools and Food Allergies
As many as 18 percent of children with diagnosed food allergies will have a reaction at school. Even more alarming is the fact that 25 percent of anaphylaxis incidents at schools happen to children who have not been diagnosed with a food allergy. Schools need to be prepared.
School Gardens a Growing Trend
“Buy local, Buy Fresh” seemed like a wonderful initiative. However, our district soon found that buying fruits and vegetables locally is often very difficult. The fresh food always cost more, and we were required to do our own pickup. We soon realized that our solution would need to be “home-grown.”
Children's Health in the National Spotlight
When “Naked Chef” Jamie Oliver solicited Huntington, W.Va. – America’s “fattest city” in 2008 -- to participate in his “Food Revolution” television series, the Cabell County School District gave him and a production crew access to its cafeterias. As the footage shows, it was not always a pleasant or pretty experience.
Should You Serve Universal Breakfast?
Breakfast, sadly, is a disappearing morning ritual. Only 35 percent of parents with elementary-age children and 22 percent of parents of middle and high school students eat breakfast with their kids every day. Schools are trying to fill in the gaps; universal breakfast is back on the table.
The Importance of Agricultural Education
Getting high-quality agricultural education programs off the ground requires more than laws and leadership, and more than money and models. It also depends on school leaders who have the patience and persistence to work on problems researchers have identified.
Children's Nutrition Is a Governance Issue
Do board members understand that school food service programs are probably the second largest part of the budget? School cafeterias certainly are the single largest source of federal revenue. Do we consider the impact that lack of good nutrition has on achievement? Parents certainly know that hungry children don't learn.
Should You Outsource Your Food Service Program?
It sounds tempting: Hand over all the responsibility for food service management--that byzantine department that usually operates in the red--to a private company. But the mere mention of the dreaded "O" word may set off protests from employees, unions, and parents and divide the administrative staff.
Managing Your School Food Service Program
She's as sweet as her name sounds, but a visit from Gertrude Applebaum is a nerve-wracking experience. She can find the flaw in a stack of spreadsheets, see the waste in a menu cycle, and detect disparities down the chain of command. Nothing gets past this woman, which is precisely why school districts with troubled food service programs hire her.
Newsmakers: Robert Harrison
When you want to focus attention on a growing epidemic, it never hurts to have a former president in your corner. Bill Clinton and the American Heart Association joined forces last year to form the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership that is focused on putting an end to childhood obesity by 2010. In this interview, the CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation talks about his organization’s efforts to end childhood obesity.
The Safety Factor
Food-borne illnesses in schools made up just 3 percent of reported outbreaks nationwide in the 1990s, according to the latest analysis available from the U.S. General Accounting Office. That translates to about 195 incidents in a decade—a miniscule number, considering the 29 million lunches served in school cafeterias each school day. But if you’re an administrator in a district hit with one of those illnesses, the problem can be catastrophic.
The Allergy Factor
Food allergies have become more common in the past decade. Experts report that the rate of allergy to peanuts and tree nuts, for example, has doubled in recent years. Despite the increase, a School Nutrition Association survey conducted last year found that just 57 percent of districts nationwide had a food-allergy preparedness plan in place. But cases in which students have died while on a field trip or after snacking on candy sold as a school fund-raiser point to the need to be prepared for the most dire allergic reactions—not just in the cafeteria but at all times.