Schools and Nutrition

by Michael_Koger

Despite revisions of school lunches, there remain obstacles to healthy food consumption among children and adolescents.

Dietary guidelines for Americans have changed over the decades, and kindergarten through twelve school meals have gained considerable attention [1]. Nevertheless, some situations arise which enable students to consume items which are high in sugar, fat, and calories. These occurrences have to do with fundraisers and recognition of outstanding academic performance [2].

There is a tendency for some teachers to use candy as a reward for children who excel in class. Whereas this conveys positive reinforcement for good performance, it also presents an issue with excess calorie intake, predisposition to overweight and obesity, and dental problems. These health risks exist because the student may consume other sugary snacks, drinks, and high-calorie foods at or away from school.

Healthy Rewards

It may be feasible to reward above-average students with praise, thanks, social rewards, trophies, ribbons, or a note to the parent which recognizes the outstanding performance.  Some teachers will also provide positive feedback with exemption from an assignment or examination.  The student can also receive first-in-line privileges, or he or she may help the teacher for a certain task [2].

When the class as a whole performs well, the teacher can reward them with an outdoor lesson, music, or an extra recess [2].

Fundraisers and Exemptions

Fundraisers pose a problem because the items for sale are commonly cookies, baked goods, sugary drinks, or candy.  These campaigns are generally for a good cause, and they gain exemption for that reason.  Hence, circulation of these high-calorie products occurs even though the children consume similar items away from school or from vending machines [2].

Approaches to fundraisers may alternatively include sale of fruit, spices, plants, toys, holiday materials, clothing, jewelry, candles, and ceramics.  Students may also consider sales of books, calendars, stationery, greeting cards, gift cards, picture frames, and first-aid kits.  Moreover, auctions, raffles, car washes, cookbooks, magazine subscriptions, walk-a-thons, sporting events, and healthy vending machine food products are excellent choices [2].


Awareness of the nutritional needs of children has progressed a great deal over the years. Continued research into methods which will reduce consumption of high-calorie or sugary foods will enable school systems across the globe to reduce overweight and obesity.


  1. United States Department of Agriculture.  (2014).  National School Lunch Program.  Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  2. University at Albany.  School of Public Health.  (2014).  School meals:  An integral part of the school day.  Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  3. 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.

Updated: 03/07/2014, Michael_Koger
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