So you want to learn how to “bag the junk” at your school? Then this site is for you! The goal of our website is to educate school employees and other members of the school community about the effects of selling unhealthy snack foods and beverages to kids in schools, and how to do something about it.
You probably already know what competitive foods are; it’s just the term that might sound confusing. Competitive foods are the foods and beverages sold in schools that are not part of the school meal program (i.e. school breakfast and school lunch). Foods and drinks sold in vending machines, cafeteria à la carte lines, school stores, and fundraisers are perfect examples. They are referred to as competitive foods because they compete with sales of full meals offered through the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program.
The big deal about competitive foods is that they (1) are widely available in U.S. schools, (2) are typically high in fat, calories and sugar; and (3) promote the consumption of junk foods and sugary beverages, both of which are contributors to childhood obesity. Childhood obesity rates in the United States have increased dramatically over the years. Today, more than 23.5 million children and teens in the United States—nearly one in three young people—are overweight or obese.
The causes of obesity are very complex, and reversing the childhood obesity epidemic is going to take a comprehensive effort. Since children spend nearly half of their waking hours in school each day, schools are a great place to start to encourage healthy behaviors. A straightforward first step is to make sure that all foods and beverages sold in schools are healthy choices for kids. Studies show that diet can have a significant influence on a student’s ability to learn efficiently and effectively, making the concept a no-brainer for schools. By creating school environments that make the healthy choice the easy choice, schools can help foster better health and greater academic success for students.
Updated nutrition standards for school meals went into effect in the fall of 2012. But the national nutrition standards for the foods and beverages available outside of school meals (i.e. competitive foods) have not been updated in more than 30 years! The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update these standards, and it is expected to propose the update in early 2013. But until that happens, there is a lot that school employees and other members of the school community can do to create healthier school food environments.
Visit our Mobilize section to learn more in-depth information and ways you can make a difference at your school.
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