Over one million students have stopped purchasing lunches provided by their school cafeterias in recent years, reports the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Many institutions are blaming the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 nutritional requirement changes for this shift, claiming that students are willingly forgoing the healthier meal options in some cases for no meals at all. School board officials, along with legislators, are claiming that this trend is leaving educational institutions with large net losses from unused edible goods, such as fruits and vegetables.
The nutritional guidelines outlined in the act were designed to decrease children’s access to unhealthy foods and improve overall nutrition rates among American youth. Many districts across the country report great acceptance and success in adopting the guidelines which restrict access to sugary, salty and fatty foods while increasing the accessibility of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Countless others report challenges implementing a sustainable structure to encourage healthy eating with minimal detriment to the budget. The USDA has already adjusted the original policy to accommodate the high prices of healthy food; however a new bill is seeking exemption for education institutions which are consistently experiencing unrecoverable losses from school lunches. The School Nutrition Administration is one of the largest supporters of the proposed bill which will allow public schools exemption from the 2010 regulations should they be able to adequately demonstrate revenue losses for a consistent six months.
First Lady Michelle Obama, along with the National Parent Teacher Association, is adamantly defending the nutrition act and the established standards as essential to the health and future of students. She held a meeting in late May with education administrators from across the nation to brainstorm solutions to the challenges many institutions are facing and to gain a better understanding of how the standards are working.
Educators not only have an obligation to uphold federal and state standards, they also have a responsibility to protect the health, safety and well-being of their students. There is almost unanimous agreement among educators that good nutrition has been linked to better health and school performance; however with students forgoing the health conscious options for nothing at all, schools face the risk of endangering the well-being of their pupils.
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