Public Release:  Nutrition services are an essential component of school health programs

Leading nutrition organizations unite to improve children's eating choices

American Dietetic Association

CHICAGO - A joint position statement by the American Dietetic Association, Society for Nutrition Education and American School Food Service Association urges that comprehensive nutrition services be provided to all the nation's schools to educate children and help them develop healthful eating habits for life. The full paper, "Nutrition services: An essential component of comprehensive school health programs," is published in the April Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The position statement is as follows:
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association, the Society for Nutrition Education and the American School Food Service Association that comprehensive nutrition services must be provided to all of the nation's preschool through grade twelve students. These nutrition services shall be integrated with a coordinated, comprehensive school health program and implemented through a school nutrition policy. The policy should link comprehensive, sequential nutrition education; access to and promotion of child nutrition programs providing nutritious meals and snacks in the school environment; and family, community and health services' partnerships supporting positive health outcomes for all children.

"The fact that three leading national nutrition organizations are coming together on this issue demonstrates the degree to which we feel schools influence the development of life-long balanced nutritional and physical activity habits for children," said registered dietitian and ADA President Julie O'Sullivan Maillet. "Childhood obesity is at an all-time high and schools can play a key role in reversing this trend through coordinated nutrition services."

"ASFSA members have long worked towards implementing district-wide nutrition policies and creating healthy school nutrition environments that send a consistent message to children about making healthy eating choices," said Gaye Lynn MacDonald, ASFSA president. "This position paper provides information and resources for nutrition professionals, coordinated school health teams and nutrition advisory groups to use in developing and supporting comprehensive school health programs."

The paper provides a detailed background and rationale that describes the concept behind the comprehensive school health program and healthy school nutrition environment. Areas such as children's eating habits, physical inactivity, schools' role, nutrition and academic performance, importance of nutrition education and school nutrition policies are discussed. Specific resources and recommendations are provided on the following issues:

  • The need for comprehensive, sequential nutrition education
  • Access to and marketing of child nutrition programs
  • Integration of nutrition education that models healthy food choices
  • Family, community and health services' partnerships

"It is critical that we focus on having an impact on the dietary and physical activity behaviors of America's youth " said registered dietitian and SNE's president, Kathleen McMahon. "Implementing school policies that will assure promotion of healthful food choices, active lifestyles and integrated nutrition education programs is the right place to start."

"The school setting is a logical focal point of what should be a comprehensive effort to help children remain healthy for life by making sound choices about eating and exercising," Maillet said. "Dietetics professionals have the training and expertise to work with schools and provide beneficial nutrition services to improve the health and well-being of our nation's children."

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The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is the official research publication of the American Dietetic Association and is the premier peer-reviewed journal in the field of dietetics and nutrition. With nearly 70,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Based in Chicago, ADA serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being. Visit ADA at www.eatright.org.

ASFSA is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. The association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals. Founded in 1946, ASFSA is the only association devoted exclusively to protecting and enhancing children's health and well-being through school meals and sound nutrition education. ASFSA is online at www.asfsa.org.

SNE is an international organization of nutrition education professionals who are dedicated to enhancing nutrition educators' ability to promote healthful sustainable food choices and nutrition behaviors and who share a vision of healthy people in healthy communities. Its members conduct research in education, behavior and communication; develop and disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies; and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers and the public. To find out more, visit www.sne.org.

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