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Promoting Nutrition and Physical Activity Mini-Grants
The prevention of childhood obesity has become a national priority. Over the past three decades, the percentage of children who are considered overweight or obese has doubled. While the causes for this epidemic of childhood obesity are likely to be complex and multi-faceted in nature, there is evidence to suggest that children’s poor diet and exercise habits are contributing to this problem.
A Role for Schools
Schools can play a critical role in the national effort to reduce childhood obesity and are well-positioned to do so. Schools provide healthy eating and physical activity opportunities through school meals programs, classroom health education, school health services, physical education programs, and other physical activity opportunities.
The goals of these mini-grants are:
- to facilitate incorporation of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in school meals programs,
- to support this implementation with strategies designed to empower students to make healthy choices related to diet and physical activity, and
- to promote teachers, school foodservice personnel, parents, and others as positive role models related to diet and physical activity.
Dietary Guidelines Incorporation into School Meals Programs
School meals may soon be required to meet new nutrition standards based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Many school foodservice directors may already be struggling to balance rising food costs against student taste preferences while maintaining nutritional quality. Efforts are needed now to assist schools in implementing the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in school meals programs and to provide support for those changes with activities targeting students, parents, teachers, school foodservice staff, and others.
In order to support this implementation, efforts are also needed to empower students to make healthy food choices and be physically active. The involvement of students in this process through nutrition education and through activities such as taste-testing new products, providing input into menu choices, and mentoring fellow students will help to create buy-in for the healthier items offered through the school foodservice program.
Adult Role Models
These efforts to improve the nutritional quality of the school meals programs and empower students to make healthier choices would also benefit from the identification of parents, teachers, school foodservice personnel and others as positive role models for students in the school and home environments. This coordinated approach provides students with clear and consistent messages about nutrition and physical activity throughout the school (both classroom and cafeteria) and home environments, and is likely to result in additional positive outcomes.
The support schools will receive through these mini-grants will assist them in implementing the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in school meals programs. The grants additionally provide nutrition and health education support, which will empower students to make more healthful choices. Support is also provided for adult wellness activities, which will motivate and enable adults to serve as role models for students.