National School Food Policies Can Improve Health Now & Later
Children need to develop good eating habits and perceptions of food and nutrition. While they are still young, it is essential for parents to establish good eating habits among children. But the challenge here is that children spend more time in school than at home thus it is crucial for the school to also do its share in improving the health of their students by reinforcing good eating habits.
The Benefits of a School Food Policy
This is the reason why school food policies are in place so that children can be encouraged to make healthy food choices. Providing free fruits and vegetables as well as limiting their sugary drinks while in school can have positive health benefits short and long term.
In a study conducted by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, they found out that putting healthy food choices in the cafeteria can have potential effects on the widespread juvenile obesity. The study, published in PLOS ONE journal, used risk assessment model to determine the impact of implementing food policies in the country in a national level for all elementary, middle, and high school students particularly on the body mass index (BMI) and the possible cardiometabolic diseases that may spring up in the future.
What Can Food Policies Do?
Since most children consume more than a third of their daily meals as well as snacks in school, having food policies focused mainly on healthy food options is crucial. And it is critical to quantify the effects of the policies on the food choices, health, and nutrition of the children. However, according to senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, the long-term health effects have not yet been evaluated across all levels of primary and secondary education in the country.
Several pieces of literature suggest that providing free fruits and vegetables can increase the habitual consumption of healthy foods where stark improvements have been observed among high school students at 25%. Limiting sugary drinks also decreases the frequent consumption among children and a significant decrease in their BMI with elementary school children showed the highest at 27%.
The Future of Health Food Policy
Changing the food policies in school at a nationwide level can also help the future generation. For instance, children today will eventually grow up, and if they grew up learning about healthy food choices, they could easily share with their children. If such policy was implemented, researchers suggest that provisions of healthy foods and drinks can prevent more than 22,000 deaths once they reach adulthood as the likelihood of getting diabetes, heart disease, and stroke reduces once you consume healthier foods.
Establishing a food policy in schools across the nation should be reviewed regularly so that policymakers know which facets they can improve on aside from eliminating sugary drinks and providing free fresh produce to the students. This is also to validate whether there are indeed short and long-term effects to the obesity rate as well as the overall well-being of the students.
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