The rationale for each Guiding Principle is presented below:
1. The present and future health and well-being of school-age children are profoundly affected by dietary intake and the maintenance of a healthy weight.
Although a healthy diet is important throughout life, research indicates that many children and adolescents have poor eating habits that fall far short of meeting recommended dietary guidelines. Poor eating habits also result in increased lifelong health risks such as overweight and obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lowered immune resistance, iron deficiency anemia, some types of cancer, osteoporosis, and dental caries. However, childhood offers an enormous opportunity to provide a solid foundation for establishing healthful lifelong eating patterns. Taking advantage of this opportunity to improve the quality of children’s diets is essential to the promotion of a healthier and more productive society.
2. Schools contribute to current and lifelong health and dietary patterns and are uniquely positioned to model and reinforce healthful eating behaviors in partnership with parents, teachers, and the broader community.
Fifty million 5- to 19-year-old children attend elementary and secondary schools, a number which represents more than 80 percent of all children in the United States (Gerald and Hussar, 2003; U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). Most children attend school for about 9 months per year from kindergarten through 12th grade. Where preschool is offered, some begin school at 3 to 4 years of age. Because children spend a large amount of time each day at school, they also consume a significant portion of their daily food intake at school. Although schools alone cannot address all the nutritional needs of children, they nonetheless play an important role in establishing short- and long-term dietary habits. Therefore, it is imperative for schools to promote good nutrition through healthful school meals and by ensuring that other foods and beverages available to students throughout the school campus contribute to a healthy diet.
Promoting children’s health through public health initiatives, from ensuring that students are immunized to improving their nutritional status through the NSLP, is and will continue to be a fundamental aspect of the U.S. public school system. This basic tenet has been confirmed in numerous federal agency reports and consensus documents such as Healthy People 2010 (DHHS, 2000), Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance (IOM, 2005b), Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity? (IOM, 2006), and School Health Services and Programs (Lear et al., 2006). In addition, school food has been a concern of the federal government since the Depression era. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) set detailed standards for school lunch and breakfast