Many leaders across the country from diverse backgrounds are standing up, taking notice and contributing great efforts to help ensure future generations are fit enough to sustain the overall health of our country. From parents at home to the First Lady of the United States, many are working hard to reduce childhood obesity, improve access to healthy food choices and improve the overall physical conditioning of youth in America. It’s a movement that has significantly changed the way foods and beverages are offered in schools. As part of the USDA’s Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, the Smart Snacks in Schools regulation has been launched this school year. This regulation requires that specific nutrition requirements be met for all foods and beverages offered in all areas of schools during the academic school day including cafeterias, vending machines and school stores. Here are a few examples of changes students across America are seeing:
- Side items in cafeterias and snacks served throughout the schools are being offered in healthier portions
- Snacks that contain less saturated fats and include more baked items, such as baked chips versus traditional chips.
- Snacks that contain less sodium
- No regular sodas and other beverages that are high in added sugars
- Beverages served in specific portions according to whether the school is elementary, middle or high school and include items such as water, milk, 100% fruit/vegetable juice and other healthy beverages.
The landscape of school health is changing and Sodexo is helping lead this change. In fact, offering healthier food options is not new for Sodexo. Back in 2009 we started to align all of our snack and beverage offerings with the Alliance for Healthier Generation standards. The Alliance is a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation that seeks to significantly reduce U.S. childhood obesity by 2015. Because of these early efforts, students in Sodexo served schools have been adjusting to these changes for years. This early adoption has helped promote student acceptance of new products. Student acceptance is critical for our nation’s goals for healthier generations to be achieved.
Everyone can help support the changes being adopted in schools by also considering adopting similar standards in your homes, as well as in other locations such as day care facilities, after school programs, recreational events and summer programs. To be clear, these changes are not about eliminating all “fun foods” from a student’s diet. Instead it’s about making healthier choices second nature so that saturated fats, sugar and sodium no longer dominate in the foods we eat, so that we can see future generations with less illness like heart disease and diabetes and so we as a country give all students the opportunity to exceed in all aspects of their life.
Roxanne Moore (MS, RD) is the national director of wellness for Sodexo Schools. Roxanne has over 18 years of experience specializing in nutrition education and has developed programs for healthcare, government programs, schools, restaurants and supermarkets.