A survey, part of a report published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, says that 50 percent of our school children have access to unhealthy snacks at school, via vending machines or snack bars. This study began in 2006 – two years after the Child Nutrition and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Reauthorization Act went into effect. Part of this Act mandates that each school with a lunch program must promote healthy eating and physical exercise.
Interestingly, the study showed that there was higher access to salty and sweet snacks in southern regions that in the Midwest and western US. But these students also had access to healthy foods too – salads, vegetables and fruits.
Obesity amongst children remains high – 17% for children between the ages of 2 and 19 (according to 2007/2008 statistics).
The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, signed into law in 2010, gives the USDA power to set the standards for what foods should be sold in schools. The USDA is soon to release the guidelines for the coming year. The hope is that these guidelines will focus on portion size and fat content and aid the schools in making the right nutritional choices for their students. If children are taught healthy eating habits while young, it can change the course of their lives.
Researchers will continue to study the accessibility of healthy versus non healthy snack options in school, and the effect that new policies and new USDA guidelines have on this availability. Let’s hope that the obesity statistics for children drop soon.
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