physical activity choices during school meal times and through school-related activities.

All foods and beverages sold or served to students in school should be healthful and meet an accepted nutritional content standard. However, many of the “competitive foods” now sold in school cafeterias, vending machines, school stores, and school fundraisers are high in calories and low in nutritional value. At present, federal standards for the sale of competitive foods in schools are only minimal.

In addition, many schools around the nation have reduced their commitment to provide students with regular and adequate physical activity, often as a result of budget cuts or pressures to increase academic course offerings, even though it is generally recommended that children accumulate a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Given that children spend over half of their day in school, it is not unreasonable to expect that they participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity during the school day.

Schools offer many other opportunities for learning and practicing healthful eating and physical activity behaviors. Coordinated changes in the curriculum, the in-school advertising environment, school health services, and after-school programs all offer the potential to advance obesity prevention. Furthermore, it is important for parents to be aware of their child’s weight status. Schools can assist in providing BMI, weight, and height information to parents and to children (as age appropriate) while being sure to sensitively collect and report on that information.

Recommendation 9: Schools

Schools should provide a consistent environment that is conducive to healthful eating behaviors and regular physical activity.

To implement this recommendation:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, state and local authorities, and schools should:

  • Develop and implement nutritional standards for all competitive foods and beverages sold or served in schools

  • Ensure that all school meals meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

  • Develop, implement, and evaluate pilot programs to extend school meal funding in schools with a large percentage of children at high risk of obesity

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