Obama Signs Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act
Standards of Nutrition
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act provides the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with increased powers, including the power to impose nutritional standards on all food sold in schools. In addition, reimbursement funds will be available to schools that meet the new standards of nutrition. Also, the USDA will be looking to ensure more local produce is utilized in school meals, expand access to drinking water during school meals, set basic policies to promote health (for example, food education and physical exercise), promote nutrition for children and expand support for breastfeeding.
Increased numbers of students will be eligible for enrolment in the new program, which will use Medicaid data to ensure household income requirements are met before enabling access. Census data will also be utilized for the identification of schools in low income areas, in order to allow for universal school meal access. School districts will also be audited every three years to ensure compliance with the nutritional standards set by the USDA. School programs will also now be required to adopt Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedures with regard to food safety. To aid schools in meeting these new safety requirements, technical assistance and training will be provided.
School Nutrition Programs Around the World
Other countries have found cause for concern when it comes to the health and nutrition of children. In the UK, a National Healthy Schools program was established in 1999, focusing on four themes (http://audit.healthyschools.gov.uk/Themes/default.aspx) – the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE); Education; Healthy Eating; Physical Activity and Emotional Health and Wellbeing. National Healthy Schools status is awarded to schools that meet the requirements set in each of the four themes.
Government run schools in India, meanwhile, provide a hot lunch program (http://www.worldpress.org/Asia/3218.cfm%20) to 140 million children. This has had the additional benefits of increasing enrolment, increasing attendance and improving the nutrition of children.
World Health Organization Provides Tools for Program Development
The World Health Organization (WHO) published a tool to enable the development of Food and Nutrition Policy for Schools in 2006 (http://www.schoolsforhealth.eu/upload/pubs/WHO_tool_development_nutrition_program.pdf), providing an incremental approach for the development of school programs to reduce both obesity and dental issues and to improve rates of physical activity and promote healthy eating habits and good nutrition.
Such programs are vital in light of facts gathered by the Global Health Council – for example, the Council states that 182 million children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth, leaving a ‘legacy of delayed development, impaired cognitive function, poor school performance, and overall reduced productivity.’
To promote the development of today’s children into the functioning citizens of tomorrow, programs such as the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-3307) and the UK’s National Healthy Schools program are essential. In addition, the promotion of proper nutrition and guidance brings lifelong benefits.
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