Schools throughout the State of NJ are thoughtfully considering the health implications of food offered to children in the cafeteria, during birthday or holiday celebrations and at school fundraisers.
Healthier Food Choices For Our Children
Districts that have chosen to join the federally funded Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, must adhere to the standards established by the USDA for all foods sold in schools. Enrolled schools receive funding from this program when they meet the nutritional requirements that have been outlined.
According to the USDA, “The new standards align school meals with the latest nutrition science and the real world circumstances of America’s schools. These responsible reforms do what’s right for children’s health in a way that’s achievable in schools across the Nation.”
Furthermore, many schools are proudly going beyond the mandates from the USDA and are implementing additional wellness policies directed towards limiting junk food provided at school celebrations, a topic the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act doesn’t make recommendations on.
As an example, part of Monmouth County Middletown Township’s Health and Wellness initiatives are to “change the focus of classroom celebrations from food to an activity that is meaningful for the students. Eliminating food from classroom celebrations will help to promote the proper message of healthy eating.”
Additionally, many school systems are sourcing local fruit and vegetables or are growing gardens right on campus. According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, through their Farm to School program, schools throughout New Jersey can access more than 100 types of Jersey Fresh produce grown right here in the Garden State. Moreover, the farm to school program includes school garden activities which help teach students where food comes from by growing it themselves.
Princeton School District in Mercer County has the goal of providing every child that goes through their school system with the skills to grow a salad, read a nutrition label, set a table, and cook for themselves. They have a garden program at each of their public school that is flourishing and loved by all.
The food reform that’s going on in our schools throughout the state is refreshing. Rates of preventable diseases amongst our children are on the rise and are only becoming more prevalent. Our children may be the first generation not to outlive their parents. The greatest gift we can give our children in life is the foundation and education for a healthy lifestyle.