At Schools

A recent Institute of Medicine obesity report, referred to schools as the “heart of health.” Students spend nearly eight hours each day at school – so what they eat, learn and do has a big impact on their future choices. Healthy eating and physical activity help reduce a child’s risk of being overweight and obese and enhance their academic performance and social success. Children that are obese by age 10 are 80 percent more likely to be obese in middle age. 

The good news is that schools in the Omaha metro area are already making strides to help children practice healthy habits. Did you know that all Nebraska and Iowa schools do not sell soda pop in vending machines or during lunch? Many school buildings are inserting “brain breaks” or morning moving sessions to get in more minutes of activity per week. Other schools host student and staff wellness committees that are taking action together. Schools are also opening their gyms and playground to share space with community organizations or hosting open gyms.

2012 school meal patterns and nutritional guidelines released by the US Department of Agriculture:

  • Ensure students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week
  • Increase offerings of whole grain-rich foods
  • Offer only fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Limit calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size
  • Increase the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans-fats, added sugars, and sodium

Source: “School Day Just Got Healthier” toolkit (pdf)

Key Solutions

Healthy kids need a well-balanced school day of healthy breakfast and lunch options, recess and physical education. These items are vital in promoting healthy lifestyles to children in schools:

  • Teachers and staff influence habits by living as a healthy role model for students including staying active and not drinking sugar-sweetened beverages in front of students.
  • Healthy eating and physical activity need to be set as a priority on the PTO/PTA agenda.
  • Daily recess and physical education must be incorporated into the school day, including 5 to 10 minute physical activity breaks.
  • Breakfast must be available and promoted to students because it will provide them the best start to each day.
  • Teachers and staff must participate in the school lunch program and encourage kids to select the healthiest lunch options. Unhealthy foods that compete with school lunch should be eliminated.

Community Resources

Making your school a healthier place doesn’t have to start from the ground up. There are already great tools and programs that exist in the community. Click the following links for more information:

Take Action

Change starts with YOU. Here are some simple ways for you to take immediate action:

  • Sign up your school to participate in Fuel Up to Play 60, a nationwide movement focused on fighting childhood obesity by empowering kids to take control of their own health
  • Host a 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® competition where each class tracks their daily habits and the winner gets to host a school-wide dance party
  • Organize a walking school bus or a bicycle train encouraging students to walk or ride their bikes to and from school together

Check out our Take Action Now page for additional ideas and resources to start making change in your school, at home or in your community.