Articles in the Obesity category

Education headlines: School lunches in the spotlight

Teens with ADHD are much more likely to drop out of school than their nondisabled peers. Health Day interviews the authors of a new study who says schools must find ways to meet these students’ needs… In this digital age, students are having a hard time grasping that copying words they did not write for school assignments amounts to plagiarism, the New York Times reports… Lunch ladies are learning new culinary skills to meet the growing demands for more nutritious school foods, according to the Associated Press… And on the same topic, First Lady Michelle Obama writes for the Washington Post about why she supports the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization. (Read NSBA’s viewpoint on the legislation in this School Board News story).

Joetta Sack-Min|August 2nd, 2010|Categories: Announcements, Obesity, School Board News, Wellness|

School nutrition gains ground in Congress

The House Education and Labor Committee has approved legislation to boost nutritional standards of all food served and sold in schools, impose new requirements for training, and other requirements for schools.

NSBA has concerns about the implementation and funding levels in the committee’s version of the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, dubbed the ‘Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act.’ A July 14 letter to Rep. George Miller, the chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, expresses concerns about local control and the costs of implementing new requirements, particularly as schools face severe budget shortfalls.

“While this legislation is well intended, it over-reaches and underfunds its requirements on school districts at a time when the operational and financial consequences are too severe to be ignored,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “Without adequate funding, schools would find it difficult to comply with the proposed new standards, reporting, training, administration, and other mandates.”

Both the House and Senate bills would charge the Department of Agriculture (USDA) with establishing nutritional standards for all food and beverages available at schools, including vending machines, the school breakfast program, and after-school snacks. Based on guidelines proposed by the Institute of Medicine, an independent think tank that developed the recommendations, the changes would include, among other things, nixing all but skim and non-fat milk and setting limits on sodium and fat content.

Like its Senate counterpart, the “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act,” the House bill would provide more funds to reimburse schools for the costs of school lunches. But even its proposed $4.5 billion increase would only amount to an additional 6 cents per school meal, while some groups have estimated it will cost at least 20 cents more per meal to comply with the mandates and ensure all students are fed nutritious and wholesome meals. The school breakfast program would not receive any increase.

However, the bill and its Senate counterpart have significant support from other education groups and the White House, which is promoting nutrition through First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 22nd, 2010|Categories: Educational Legislation, Obesity, School Board News, Wellness|

House plans to boost school nutrition standards

A bill to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act would give school districts more money for school meals but also would impose new nutrition standards that could be difficult and costly for school boards.

The House Education and Labor committee has released a draft of its bill to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, which could be voted on before the July 4 recess. The legislation sponsored by the committee’s chairman, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., is similar to a measure before the Senate.

While NSBA supports the goals of the “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” there are concerns that some of the requirements would be difficult or impossible to put into practice without considerable expense. It’s vital that Congress provide more funding, as analysts estimate that the costs for complying with the proposed mandates would be at least 11 cents per school meal, while the House legislation only authorizes an increase of about six cents per meal.

“We know that children who eat nutritious foods and are active stay healthier, perform better in school, and learn behaviors that will keep them healthy throughout their lifetimes, which is why it is critically important that this legislation address the needs of local communities,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “However, this legislation is being proposed at a time when schools and parents are impacted by a downtrodden economy.”

To move forward with any new requirements, schools may be forced to cut other classroom programs, Bryant added.

Representatives of NSBA’s school health programs have worked with numerous districts that have successfully implemented programs to serve more nutritious foods in their cafeterias and at school events.

“These successes have proven that awareness and education — not federal mandates — will spur parents and communities to make the changes that are absolutely necessary for long-term success,” Bryant said.

NSBA’s Delegate Assembly adopted a resolution concerning school nutrition at the 2010 annual meeting in Chicago. That resolution, which guides NSBA’s advocacy efforts, states, “NSBA urges Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to recognize local school district authority and the variance among school district circumstances when enacting legislation or promulgating regulations to address childhood nutrition. In addition, NSBA urges Congress to ensure that adequate funding is provided to support improving the nutritional quality of foods and beverages sold at schools.”

Joetta Sack-Min|June 15th, 2010|Categories: Educational Legislation, Obesity, School Board News, Wellness|

White House and Congress propose plans to curb childhood obesity

A flurry of federal and national proposals, reports and initiatives have been released in recent months, pushing the issue of childhood obesity to the forefront of national education issues.

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign has been the most high profile. It calls on a broad cross section of community and state leaders, including school board members, to combat the epidemic that claims one-third of all youth as overweight or obese.

The task force behind the White House initiative last week unveiled a 124-page report that included more than 70 recommendations, with some specifically targeted at school meals and increasing physical activity.

Their report comes on the heels of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, currently being considered in the Senate, which would revamp the Child Nutrition Act. It would require schools to step up their efforts in boosting the nutritional value and safety of school lunches.

And this is in conjunction with new standards the U.S. Department of Agriculture is being tasked with drafting. Those will be based on recommendations the Institute of Medicine released last fall that, among other things, nixed whole milk from cafeterias, required more vegetables and whole grains, and set caloric and sodium limits–the latter of which the FDA just restricted for processed foods.

NSBA has long recognized childhood obesity as a growing societal problem that schools and governance teams can help address. However, given the severe budget cuts many school districts are facing and the fact that many local school boards have created innovative and successful programs without federal interference, NSBA is wary of increased federal mandates.

“Children who eat nutritious foods and are active stay healthier, perform better in school, and learn behaviors that will keep them healthy throughout their lifetimes,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne Bryant. “Many local school boards across the nation, along with officials at the local and state level, already have taken a number of innovative steps to improve school nutrition and fitness programs.”

At the same, school boards must balance numerous instructional and other priorities based on local circumstances and available resources, Bryant said.

“True change in this critical effort must start at the local level,” she said. “Working with and through our state school boards associations, we are committed to providing school districts with the tools to ensure local policies provide the direction necessary for true change to take place within a generation.”

Naomi Dillon|May 20th, 2010|Categories: Educational Legislation, Obesity, School Board News, Wellness|

Preventing childhood obesity

With First Lady Michelle Obama (who made a televised appearance before today’s general session) kicking off a nationwide campaign to end childhood obesity and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver traveling the country to get communities to eat better as part of a reality TV show, it seems like America may finally be mobilizing around the idea that we need to promote and lead healthier lives if we want future generations to live as long.

“There are a lot of things happening and as a school dietician it makes me happy,” said Roxanne Moore, the national director of wellness for Sodexo Education, which hosted an afternoon workshop that looked at how nutrition and wellness can impact student performance.

Though school districts were required in 2006 to form wellness committees, which oversaw everything from physical fitness and nutrition to employee health and emotional well-being, Moore said many have questioned how effective and proactive these councils have been in promoting healthy lifestyles for students and staff.

But initiatives like Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, which encourages Americans to make healthier choices, increase physical activity, and gain access to affordable food, while making schools a central player in the effort to solve childhood obesity is pushing the issue forward, despite recent trends data that show childhood obesity may finally be stabilizing.

“While weight gain may be stabilizing it doesn’t mean children are well nourished,” Moore said. “They are still not filling up with the right kinds of foods and calories. Instead they are getting them from more processed and convenience foods.”

And numerous studies have shown a direct correlation between academic achievement and diet and fitness, with one report finding that a school that suffers from high absenteeism rates due to poor nutrition and low physical activity among its students stands to lose between $95,000 and $160,000 annually in student aid.

Though money is tight for districts nationwide and federal reimbursements for school meals are woefully underfunded, schools can still do a lot on a little to promote wellness in their communities.

Increasing actual eating times–which average nine to 12 minutes–introducing taste tests and exhibition cooking and adopting policies that support a healthy learning environment are just a few examples.

“Kids didn’t ask anybody to increase portion sizes,” Moore said, pointing to a slide that showed a serving of movie popcorn had grown from 270 calories and five cups in 1990 to 630 calories and 11 cups today. “We need to make healthy eating cool … it can be done, but it needs to be hands-on, repetitive and consistent.”

Naomi Dillon|April 10th, 2010|Categories: Educational Finance, NSBA Annual Conference 2010, Obesity, School Board News, School Boards, Student Achievement, Wellness|

First Lady to board members: Let’s Move!

First Lady Michelle ObamaFirst Lady Michelle Obama made a televised appearance at NSBA’s 70th annual conference, held in her hometown of Chicago.

In February, Obama kicked off Let’s Move!, a national campaign to combat childhood obesity, and her remarks broadcast at today’s General Session were focused on this important initiative.

“Our goal for Let’s Move! is to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood with a healthy weight,” Obama said. “This effort will require a comprehensive approach that builds on effective strategies and mobilizes public and private resources.”

The national campaign aims to engage every sector impacting the health of children and to provide schools, families, and communities with resources to help kids be more active, make wise food choices, and live a healthier lifestyle. Such an endeavor requires the help and cooperation of many, including parents, teachers, and community leaders.

“School boards play a critical role in the development of effective school policies to ensure healthy school environments,” Obama said. “You’re the ones on the ground that can make this happen.”

Obama acknowledged that times are challenging and that many schools might view things like healthy school lunches or fitness challenges as extras, things to spring for once the necessities have been taken care of.

“But these are false choices,” she said. “If kids aren’t getting adequate nutrition or exercise, even the best textbooks and teachers in the world won’t help them learn.”

Solving the nation’s obesity challenge won’t be easy or quick, Obama said.

“Make no mistake, it can be solved,” she said. “But it’s going to take all of us working together.”

Naomi Dillon|April 10th, 2010|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, NSBA Annual Conference 2010, Obesity, School Board News, School Boards, Student Achievement, Wellness|

Proposed legislation would impose more federal standards on school nutrition services

A new proposal to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act would authorize more funding but impose additional federal requirements on food available in schools as well as training and certification requirements for state and local personnel.

The draft legislation, dubbed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, was unveiled by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. A mark-up and Committee vote on the bill is scheduled for this week.

The measure would require the Secretary of Agriculture to issue new standards for school meals based on recommendations made by a board of the National Academies of Science. It would provide an additional reimbursement of 6 cents per school lunch that complies with the standards, increasing the federal government’s contribution to school lunch and nutrition programs by $4.5 billion over a 10-year period. The draft also authorizes the secretary to issue standards for all food sold in schools based on Dietary Guidelines for Americans under the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act. NSBA opposes national standards and federal regulation outside the federal food programs.

It also would add to existing laws on local wellness policies and require districts to allow parents, students, the school food authority, the school board, administrators, and community members to develop and review of the local school wellness policies.

And the bill also proposes new training and professional standards requirements for school food service personnel, a measure that could be costly for school districts.

Local school districts are acutely aware that child nutrition is needed to ensure a healthy learning environment for children. With that in mind, NSBA has asked Congress to recognize local school district authority, not impose additional regulations or mandates on schools outside the federally subsidized school lunch and breakfast programs, and adequately reimburse school districts for the cost of those services. NSBA has also asked for incentives and grants to help support districts that are taking greater responsibility and creating successful nutrition programs.

“Without question, local school districts believe that child nutrition is vitally important to fostering a healthy and positive learning environment for children to achieve their full potential,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “NSBA works with and through state school boards associations and uses Web-based services, educational programming, and publications to help school policymakers and educators to make informed decisions about health issues affecting the academic achievement and healthy development of students and the effective operation of schools.”

Joetta Sack-Min|March 22nd, 2010|Categories: Educational Legislation, Obesity, School Board News, School Boards, Wellness|

New Report Links Recess to Learning

Recess is often brushed off as just playing tag and kickball on the playground, but a Gallup poll released Feb. 4 shows it can be valuable to learning.

The poll, conducted in October 2009, took an online survey of almost 2,000 elementary school principals, asking questions about how they see recess affecting students’ ability to perform both in and outside of the classroom. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said recess has a positive impact on academic achievement.

(more…)

Erin Walsh|February 5th, 2010|Categories: Curriculum, Obesity, School Board News, Wellness|
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