As obesity continues to rise amongst our children and parents are starting to tackle the problem at home they are finally beginning to get some help from our schools.
The rate or obesity in our children is increasing quickly and the blame, to a certain extent, is being laid at the door of our schools. It is no surprise therefore that we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of articles talking about child obesity and cafeteria foods.During the past 20 years the incidence of overweight among 6 to 11 year olds has increased from 7% to almost 18.8% while the incidence among teenagers has risen from 5% to 17.1%. and, until recently, there has been no regulation of the foods offered in schools which have been left to offer whatever they have wished to through school cafeterias, vending machines and snack bars.A report however entitled 'Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way to Healthier Youth' has now been published by The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Institute of Medicine detailing nutritional standards that schools must adopt.The report begins by dividing food into Tier 1 foods (foods containing at least one serving of fruit, vegetables and/or whole grain foods or non-fat or low-fat dairy products) and Tier 2 foods (foods which are not specified as Tier 1 foods but which are nonetheless considered to be acceptable in nutritional terms in limited quantities). The report then goes on to detail what schools can and cannot do. For example:1. Foods and beverages offered at school ought to be restricted to Tier 1 foods.2. Snack items ought not to contain in excess of 200 calories per serving.3. Foods and beverages ought to be free from caffeine. This standard will not however apply to foods that contain natural caffeine-related substances as long as they are found in only trace amounts.4. Beverages that contain non-nutritive sweeteners ought only to be available to high school children and ought only to be permitted after the end of the school day.5. Foods, snacks and beverages ought not to have more than 35% of their calories provided by total sugars. This standard will not however apply to 100% fruit or fruit juices that have no added sugar, 100% vegetable or vegetable juice which has no added sugar and to unflavored non-fat and low-fat milk or yogurt.6. Snack items ought not to contain in excess of 200 milligrams of salt.7. Foods and beverages ought not to be used as a form of either reward or punishment.8. Sports beverages ought only to be offered to students who are participating in high-intensity sports programs where this activity lasts for at least one hour.9. Foods, snacks and beverages ought not to have more than 35% of their calories provided by fat. In addition, no more than 10% of their calories ought to come from saturated fats and they ought to contain no trans fats.10. Plain, potable water (that is to say water that is not carbonated, fortified or flavored) ought to be available to students throughout the day free of charge.These of course are merely some of the provision of the report by way of illustration, but demonstrate that at long last we are beginning to do something to halt the rise in obesity among our children at school.