Dining habits have a huge impact on the proper functioning of the human body and mind. Certain foods stimulate the body to function at an advanced level while others slow down thinking processes and initiate the accumulation of unhealthy fat in the body (Duyff 466). According to nutrition experts, there a number of factors that influence the dining habits that people embrace. One such factor is school environment, which also influences other important aspects of students’ lives. It is important for administrators to ensure that the food served in cafeterias help students to gain all the right nutrients for smooth learning (Duyff 467).
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The reason for this is that healthy food in school cafeterias helps students to gain the essential nutrients that fuel the learning process (Duyff 469). Students should be served with meals that meet high nutritional standards. Many schools in the United States of America struggle to provide healthy food to students mainly because of financial constraints and lack of nutritionists (Duyff 471). This makes it hard for them to provide quality and nutritious food for students who do not carry packed lunch. There is an urgent need for the Federal government to come up with policies that require all schools to provide healthier foods because high-quality diet is crucial to the physical and mental wellbeing of students.
The main reason for choosing this topic is the need to establish the reasons why young people in schools are provided with unhealthy food that have negative health effects (Perle par. 2). In addition, I am interested in determining whether the government has developed any plans to address this challenge, owing to the fact that America has the highest number of obese people (Perle par. 4). I fully support the call for healthy foods in schools across the United States of America because the high rate of obesity and diabetes among young people could have negative impacts on the economy and quality of life because these conditions reduce productivity (Duyff 497).
Experts argue that schools provide the best environments for young people to learn and develop skills, as well as habits that shape their destinies. These habits involve the engagements that students have in class, the cafeteria, and extracurricular activities such as games or drama (Duyff 471). Studies have established that most schools excel in creating positive influences on their students in many areas except in the area of healthy nutrition. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), many schools serve students with foods that exceed the standard amount of sodium, which is 500 milligrams (Perle par. 4). In addition, some schools offer foods that do not contain the recommended fat content.
Lunches in America compared to other countries
America’s school lunch program compares poorly with those of other countries in terms of nutrient quality. Meals served to American students are deficient in amount and quality compared to countries such as Korea, France, Spain, and Greece (Victor par. 1). The most worrying thing about the meal program in America is its poor quality compared to countries with very limited resources, which serve their children with quality meals. For example, schools in Korea offer meals with vegetables such as fermented cabbages and high nutrient fish soup. Certain schools in Spain and France serve meals with fish, vegetables, and meat (Victor par. 2).
One of the characteristic feature about meals served in these countries is that they have very few or no processed foods. Some of the meals served in these countries that lack in American schools include sausages, mashed potatoes, plantains, rice, black beans, pea soup, carrots, and steak.
Most of the meals served in American schools contain processed ingredients such as pasta (Victor par. 4). Some schools serve junk food in the form of fries and snacks that contain high amounts of sugar. There is an urgent need to provide fresh and healthy ingredients to children in American schools. The most important changes that should be made in the meal program are introduction of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and reduction of foods that contain high fat levels (Victor par. 6).
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Some of the notable ingredients that need to be added in breakfast meals include bread, milk, and chocolate. Although the American government has made efforts to improve the quality of its meal program through the efforts of first lady Michelle Obama, critics argue that the initiative could be devoid of quantity if it manages to provide quality (Victor par. 8). America can learn many lessons from countries such as Italy, France, Greece, Spain, and Finland with regard to improving the nutrient standards of the meals served in schools.
Efforts made by the government to improve the country’s meal program
Poor nutrition has negative effects on students’ wellbeing. Effects of poor nutrition include obesity, diabetes, poor academic performance, and bad physical condition (Christensen par. 4). This explains why the nutritional quality of foods served in schools across America needs to be improved. Over the last few years, a number of programs have been launched in the country with an aim to give students access to healthier foods. The programs were created based on recommendations from numerous studies that evaluated the effect of strong nutrition and feeding policies on the performance of students in various schools (Duyff 508).
The first step towards creating the programs was made in 2010 when the Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed by the Congress (Duyff 508). According to the legislation, the USDA was required to reorient the school meal program in a manner that would compel schools to provide nutritive snacks and drinks to their students (Christensen par. 6). The first program that launched in 2012 focused on improving the nutrient quality of lunch served in schools. The one launched in 2013 focused on improving the quality of breakfast.
By the end of the year 2014, close to 90% of schools across the United States had improved the nutrient quality of the food they served to students (Duyff 511). The program also increased the amount of money given by the federal government for the feeding program to every school that received certification for providing the recommended nutrients in the foods given to students (Duyff 519). The reason for increasing the funding was to avert complains from schools that their cafeterias would not make any profits if they stopped selling junk food. According to the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the government was willing to do anything in order to improve the quality of the country’s meal program (Duyff 506).
In the last 5 years, the American government has implemented several strategies aimed at ensuring that schools in the country give healthy meals to children. A strategy that has been highly successful is the Chefs Move to Schools initiative (Christensen par. 19). Under the initiative, professional cooks are encouraged to identify schools of their choice and work together with the administrators and nutritionists in order to influence the diet choices of students (Christensen par. 19). This initiative has been successful, as many schools have started to improve their meals by introducing fresh and healthy ingredients.
Another initiative launched by the government is the Recipes for Healthy Kids (Christensen par. 20). This initiative was launched in the form of a reality show in which various participants competed to create the most delicious and healthy recipe for children meals. One of the requirements for choosing the winner was the recipe that met the minimum nutritional requirements for various meals (Christensen par. 20). As part of the motivation to encourage as many people to enter the competition, participants with the best recipes were invited to the White House to prepare meals together with the President’s chefs (Christensen par. 20).
School lunch budgets
Due to the changes made on the meal program of schools in the United States of America, lunch budgets are likely to increase slightly. The main cause of this challenge is the fact that school cafeterias are nonprofit entities that are likely to find it hard to offer services within their normal budgets (Guthrie and Newman par. 2). Costs related to labor and food ingredients are the main challenges that impede the success of the new standards. Experts argue that the cost of meals will be high and many students might not afford them. However, schools will provide differently-priced foods in order to ensure that all students take healthier meals (Guthrie and Newman par. 3).
In addition, the meals are expected to be appealing in order to avoid wastage. The government promised to provide additional funds to schools in order to facilitate the implementation of the new changes. Therefore, schools can use the extra money to meet their budget deficits (Guthrie and Newman par. 5). Nutrition experts argue that students will most probably enjoy variety in their meals hence the need to provide schools with enough funds in order to guarantee the success of the program (Guthrie and Newman par. 6).
Schools provide the best environments for young people to learn and develop important skills. Schools in the United States of America have struggled to feed their students with healthy foods for several years. Despite America being one of the economic giants in the world, it has lagged behind most of the financially strained countries in Europe and Asia with regard to the nutritive value of foods that schools provide to students.
Most American schools sell junk and processed foods to their students in cafeterias. Countries such as France, Spain, and Italy have been providing their students with healthier foods for years. The poor meal program embraced by American schools has played a major role in the growth of bad nutrition choices in the country, which have left many people suffering from diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions. Schools in America should provide students with healthier meals because high-quality diet is crucial to the physical and mental wellbeing of students.
Christensen, Jen. Schools Struggle to Feed Kids Healthy Food. 2010. Web.
Duyff, Roberta. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. New Jersey: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.
Guthrie, Joanne, and C. Newman. Eating Better at School: New Policies Improve Children’s Food Choices?. 2013. Web.
Perle, Elizabeth. The Sad State of School Lunch in the U.S. (PHOTOS). 2013. Web.
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