There has been much attention to foods which children consume while at school. Without question, school meals comprise an essential part of the day as students are more ready to learn when they consume a healthy breakfast and lunch. As some students do not eat breakfast at home, some schools have implemented meals early in the day before classes start or after the first period [1, 2].
School Breakfast and Lunch
Nutritious school meals have an important role each day for students.
School Lunch Programs
School lunch programs have existed for a couple hundred years in Europe where children received meals during the day from charitable organizations which also provided instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic for them. The United States has also funded programs for kindergarten through twelve. In 1946, 7.1 million children in that country participated in the National School Lunch Program which came after many years of federal funding for school meals [1, 2].
Currently in the United States, the federal government spends 13 billion dollars every year on these meals which are either free or low cost. Public and private schools as well as residential child care institutions receive such funds. Though dietary changes in the schools entail cost, revenue to the school system for participation in the program exceeds that expense .
School Dietary Revisions
The goal, of course, is to make the plates healthy and with a minimum content of saturated fat, carbohydrate, sodium, and calories. This requires that children consume more servings of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains each day [1, 2]. Vending machines in schools are often a hindrance to achievement of these dietary recommendations.
The guidelines for school nutrition have undergone revisions over the years as the health of Americans changes. The increase in childhood overweight and obesity as well as chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and cancer has led the health care profession to modify dietary recommendations [1, 2].
The earlier in life a person practices healthy behavior, the less likelihood that these diseases will occur. Moreover, childhood obesity leads to mental disorders. A fourth of young adults will not qualify for military service in the United States because of excessive body weight.
Much research has taken place on nutrition for children and adults, and disease prevention is possible with implementation of proper guidelines.
- United States Department of Agriculture. (2014). National School Lunch Program. Retrieved February 15, 2014.
- University at Albany. School of Public Health. (2014). School meals: An integral part of the school day. Retrieved February 15, 2014.
- The photo shows a healthy meal. Reprinted with permission from Centers for Disease Control/Fenley.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.