In the News: February 10, 2011

school, nutrition, in-classroom, universal, breakfastSchool breakfast—and school nutrition in general—have stayed in the headlines over the last few weeks. The stories run the gamut from simple press releases to heated op-eds on the pros and cons of any number of issues surrounding food in schools: nutritional value, funding, USDA guidelines, education, etc. Here are a few that caught my eye:

  • Good food habits and nutritional education are important. That’s why I love this article from the Poor nutrition is scary stuff, even for kids. The author Andrew Kensley discusses food nutrition, and makes the analogy of junk food being like a drug that can become addicting. Like drug addictions, food addictions/bad habits have the potential for deadly consequences. I think it’s an interesting analogy, and one I’ve made myself. (The degree to which it’s a hyperbolic analogy is up for debate, but it works for illustration I think.) Think about how difficult it must be for someone with disordered eating habits or a food addiction to retrain their thinking; to eat right and to see food as fuel. People who misuse drugs and alcohol must stop using those substances to recover, but what about someone who has a disordered relationship with food? We can’t quit food, ever. How much harder is it to retrain ourselves as adults to eat properly and responsibly?
  • If you follow school nutrition issues closely you already know that the Colorado Smart Start breakfast program has been in the news after state legislators voted to cut funding. The program feeds 56,000 eligible children 2.3 million meals each year. The amount saved by cutting the funding? $125,000. Read more here and here.
  • In December the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of2010 was passed through Congress and signed into law. Check out the official White House press release, a .pdf fact sheet and sample menu.
  • Educating kids on nutrition is the sugar-free organic icing on the gluten-free cake. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist a healthy-food play on words!) Check out this article about a program for elementary students in North Dakota that integrates nutrition instruction with physical education. The school kitchen manager reports higher consumption of fruits and veggies – sweet! Read on and learn more about the Green Beans, a nutrition club at Blessed Sacrament School in Belleville, IL. I love the way this story highlights parents, students and administrators taking action together.
  • Last week I blogged about school vacations, snow days and hunger. I found this article about how the Minnesota Department of Education is looking for sponsors to fund their 2011 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
  • Schools across the country are taking a hard look at their menus and making changes to improve the nutritional value of the choices they offer. Here are a few stories about schools–in Alabama, Texas and California—working to improve menus while keeping students happy.
  • In last week’s In the News feature I wrote about Chicago’s decision to implement universal, in-classroom breakfast in all of its classrooms, serving 410,000 students. I found an interesting op-ed by Jacqueline Edelberg at Huffington Post that I think is worth reading. Chicago Schools Serving Up Breakfast, But Not Everyone’s Happy is long, but raises some interesting discussion points. Thoughts? Post them in comments!
  • Finally, this article out of Cordova, Alaska caught my eye because … well, because I used to live in Alaska! My friend Helen is a Nutrition Educator with the University of Fairbanks Cooperative Extension and through her I have come to better understand the particular challenges that geography can impose on issues of poverty and hunger. The growing season in Alaska is only 100 days long so student gardens and farmers markets are far more restricted than in other places. A staple someone in the Lower 48 might consider affordable—canned beans, milk—can be prohibitively expensive in Alaska due to shipping costs, and the more remote your community the more expensive it can be. The price of produce in Alaska in the winter would make you cry; buying organic can double or triple the price. I pay less for organic produce in Texas than I paid for “regular” produce in Fairbanks. What challenges does your location impose on the cost and deliverability of nutritious, affordable food?

Image credit: SXC

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