School Nutrition

The debate on school food nutrition has been going on for years. In the United States, school lunch is being transformed as some schools partner with local farms for fresh vegetables. The much-needed attention comes after decades of giving children processed foods that were not as nutritious and well flavored to meet the standards of children food. Unfortunately, paying closer attention to the types of foods offered to my children I am not impressed.  Three out of four days meals contain fried foods such as chicken tenders, popcorn, and mini corn dogs. The children are offered frozen vegetables and canned fruits. Notably, although the foods fit the food pyramid, the question remains can’t our children be given fresher foods to reduce the risk of increasing obesity problems among children and other health issues? Childhood obesity is a menace, and the current food options are only aggravating the issue. Accordingly, we give a detailed report on how fresher food options should replace the current options, key strategies to implement these improved options and ways it will help fight obesity in children. The priority focuses on introducing healthier food options in the pyramid and a dietician to offer advice to schools.

Key Strategies

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A national food and nutrition policy may be hard to formulate and implement due to the widespread variation in the schools around the United States. Individual states and counties are therefore responsible for deciding the most appropriate suggestions to meet the school nutrition needs of their children. In light of this, I tried contacting the policymakers who I believe are responsible for making changes to the district’s school nutrition policy. More specifically, I emailed the Superintendent, Director of Food Services, as well and the School board President. The superintendent responded and informed me that I should contact the Director of Food Services and Pat Bono. I am still waiting for feedback from the two. In the meantime, before they respond to my emails, I drafted the presentations that I intend to them.

  1. Present a cost comparison chart to show purchase of fresh vegetables and fruits over canned is better for the children
  2. Demonstrate the benefits of providing healthier options for reducing childhood obesity
  3. Give ideas for improved and appealing food options
Food as purchased, APPurchase UnitServings per purchase unit (EP)Serving Size per Meal ContributionPurchase Units for 100 ServingsAdditional Information
Carrots, canned Sliced Includes USDA FoodsNo. 300 can (15 oz)5.881/4 cup drained vegetable17.11 No. 300 can = about 8.5 oz (1-3/8 cups) drained, unheated carrots
Carrots, frozen Sliced Includes USDA FoodsPound9.871/4 cup cooked, drained vegetable10.21 lb AP = 0.95 lb (about 2-3/8 cups) cooked, drained carrots
Carrots, fresh Sliced Peeled Ready – to – usePound12.601/4 cup raw vegetable slices (5/16-inch slices)8.01 lb AP = 1 lb (about 31/8 cups) ready-to-serve or- cook carrot

Table 1 (Food buying guide for child nutrition programs – vegetables (red/orange subgroup), 2013)

Importantly noted, although the school offers fried foods with some slight improvement in food options, they are just options and not part of the daily menu.

Alongside this strategy, another key goal for the school would be to contract a dietician for the families to offer better food options for children in need. Childhood obesity is a growing menace, and as reports indicate, the healthy issue has tripled since 1980 to 2008 (Cluss, fee, Culyba, 2014). By June 2014, the number of children with obesity stood at 17 percent. Another report indicates that by September, a third of the children between the ages of 6 to 19 are overweight (Hennessy, Oh, & Agurs-Collins, 2014). In this case, having a dietitian for the school district can help children and families as well by designing food menus for home, offer appropriate strategies to stay on the right track with the menu, and offer encouragement as well. As noted in the Dietitians| Better Health Channel (2013), dietitians are trained professionals with the right clinical training to offer expert knowledge and advice on nutrition and dietary to help modify diets for improved health. It is also recommended that the dietitians can also offer diet classes to educate children on the importance of proper diet and nutrition. 

Empirical Evidence

According to the school district policy on providing nutritious food for the children, they only serve food in compliance with the current USDA dietary guidelines and USDA Smart Snacks in school nutrition guideline (Oxford Community Schools, 2014). The USDA recommends a wide variety of canned, frozen, fresh, and dried fruits as well as vegetables. According to Miller, Knudson, and Knudson, W. A. (2014), canned fruits and vegetables have been identified as nutritious options and their availability all year-round makes them a preferred choice. However, there is limited data available to the specific nutritional value of canned fruits and vegetables versus fresh ones. Notably, a study carried out to investigate the nutrition and cost comparisons of certain canned, frozen, and fresh fruits and vegetables unveiled some significant differences. For instance, fresh vegetables such as spinach and turnip greens provide more nutritious value as compared to frozen and canned. On the other hand, canned green beans and carrots provide more nutritional value. Nonetheless, the issue of using canned and frozen versus fresh is relative to the affordability and availability of healthful food options. Thus, it is recommended to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables where affordability and availability permits.

Impact on Nursing

Childhood obesity is one of the leading causes of pediatric hypertension, Diabetes type II, high risk of coronary artery disease, and sleep apnea among other health-related issues (Halawa, 2013). Children as young as four years have obesity, with reports indicating that 25 percent of children between the ages 6 and 11 years and 39 percent of children in the 12 and 17 years age bracket have obesity. Further reports indicate that 70 percent of children who are overweight are likely to develop obesity in their adult years. Nutrition plays a critically significant role in the prevention of illness and disease management. Nurses, as well as other healthcare professionals, encounter nutrition issues every day. In healthcare settings, nurses focus on the dietary concerns in patients recovering from illnesses. In schools, nurses provide education on nutritional education to the public to prevent chronic conditions among children. Proper nutrition is not only important in the prevention of diseases, but also in the recovery process. According to DiMaria-Ghalili, Mirtallo, & Tobin (2014), the era of predominantly leaving the responsibility of nutrition education to a dietitian is long gone. Nowadays, the whole clinical team is involved and especially nurses who are required to perform nutrition screening and come up with the right strategies to help patients manage their diet and in their recovery process.

Proper nutrition is important in the health of the children. Eating the proper diet plays a critically significant role in reducing the risk of childhood obesity. However, these calls for participation from the parties involved including the school officials, parents, and the school district to ensure the necessary changes are implemented. A registered dietitian on the payroll of the school district can help advise the parents, design the right home menus, and educate children on the importance of proper nutrition. Notably, too, childhood obesity does not only affect the children and the parents; rather, it is a problem in the society that affects everyone. Nurses play a significant role in nutrition screening, designing the right strategies to help people manage their diet, and improve their recovery process. 

References

Cluss, P. A., Fee, L., Culyba, R. J., Bhat, K. B., & Owen, K. (2014). Effect of food service nutrition improvements on elementary school cafeteria lunch purchase patterns. Journal of School Health, 84(6), 355-362

Dietitians | Better Health Channel. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Dietitians

DiMaria-Ghalili, R. A., Mirtallo, J. M., Tobin, B. W., Hark, L., Van, H. L., & Palmer, C. A. (2014). Challenges and opportunities for nutrition education and training in the healthcare professions: intraprofessional and interprofessional call to action. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99, (5), 1184-1193.

Food buying guide for child nutrition programs – vegetables (red/orange subgroup). (2013, December 13). Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/fbg_orange.pdf

Halawa, A. (2013). The effectiveness of the national and state school lunch and school breakfast programs in the curtailment of childhood obesity in the United States. International Journal of Social Health Information Management, 6(14), 1-18.

Hennessy, E., Oh, A., Agurs-Collins, T., Chriqui, J. F., Mâsse, L. C., Moser, R. P., & Perna, F. (2014). State-Level School Competitive Food and Beverage Laws Are Associated With Children’s Weight Status. Journal of School Health, 84(9), 609-616. 

Miller, S. R., Knudson, W. A., & Knudson, W. A. (2014). Nutrition and Cost Comparisons of Select Canned, Frozen, and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(6), 430-437.

Oxford Community Schools. Policy 8500 Food Services. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.neola.com/oxford-mi/

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