Why Change School Food?
- Many students don’t have access to enough food, or healthy food, at home, and so it is critical that students get not just enough food, but healthy food at school.
- For students who are eating healthfully at home, schools should not be undermining their parents’/caregivers’ efforts.
- Our taxpayer dollars pay for school food. Those dollars should be spent on health-supporting foods, not foods that contribute to disease.
The food system in our society has been co-opted by a profit-motivated industry that has purposely made processed food addictive (Read Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss) and cheap. School food has gotten a bad rap, but it’s no worse, and in many cases, it is better than what children may be eating outside of school. Despite regulations intended to make school food healthier, the offerings at many schools still mimic processed fast food (with lower calories, sodium, and fat) and since juice can count as a fruit many children are not eating fruits or vegetables at school… or at home.
The impact is devastating:
- One out of three children and seven out of ten adults are overweight or obese.
- 50% of children between the ages of 2 – 15 already have fatty streaks in their arteries, literally early-stage heart disease.
- Children as young as 8 years old being prescribed cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering drugs.
- Type 2 diabetes, formerly called “adult-onset” is becoming increasingly more common in elementary children.
- 33% of all US children will end up with type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives.
- 40 – 53% of African American and Latino children will get type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives.
- 35% of cancer deaths are caused by diet, and processed meats, on most school menus (New York City removed them), are Group 1 Carcinogens, according to the World Health Organization, known to cause cancer in humans.
- Research funded by the National Cancer Institute shows that milk and dairy products may be associated with an increased risk for breast cancer.
- Milk and dairy products are linked to increased prostate cancer risk due to the hormone-insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I), saturated fat, and animal-based protein.
- Red and processed meat and eggs are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer.
Let’s practice what we teach:
Schools are the place where children go to learn. When our kids board the school bus, leave from home, or are dropped off at school, we expect the school to act in the place of parents to protect our children. Learning how to eat and live healthfully are important life lessons that should be taught at school (because not all children learn this at home). It is important for the food in schools to be consistent with the nutrition lessons students learn about healthy eating that are evidence based. Unfortunately, due to industry influence students are also taught to eat foods (and beverages) that contribute to poor health.
- Hungry Kids Need Healthy School Food. For students that depend on food at school to meet their needs for enough food, it’s especially important that the food be healthy.
- For students that eat healthy at home, schools should not be undermining the parents’ efforts to feed their children healthfully.
- Free, reduced price, and even a portion of “paid” meals are subsidized by our federal (and often state) tax dollars. These funds should provide foods known to be health supporting and not foods that are known to contribute to disease.
- It’s a good idea to provide choices – we all have different tastes, but all choices should be healthy.