programs, and the federal government invests about $10 billion a year in them.
In addition, the presence of children in a school setting for many hours each day provides a multitude of opportunities for modeling and reinforcing healthful eating behaviors. There are opportunities in formal classroom nutrition education programs as a component of other academic courses such as math, language arts, and science; and in classroom hands-on experiences with the preparation and consumption of food.
Opportunities to model and reinforce healthful eating behaviors are also available through the offering of healthful foods and beverages in the school meal and snack programs as part of à la carte sales in the cafeteria and throughout the school campus (e.g., in vending machines, school stores and clubs, and in the classroom). Although there are many influences on students’ eating habits (both positive and negative) and numerous settings outside of school where children eat and drink, the school setting is the place in which the most curriculums are provided, and healthful behaviors and positive attitudes can be modeled and reinforced. This should apply to the healthfulness of foods and beverages as much as it does to the quality of curriculums, textbooks, science-based books, and rules of behavior.
3. Because foods and beverages available on the school campus represent significant caloric intake, they should be designed to meet nutrition standards.
Because children spend a large amount of time at school, they often consume a large proportion of their foods and beverages there—estimates range from 19 to 50 percent or more of total calories (Gleason and Suitor, 2001). School meal programs have been increasingly successful (Fox et al., 2001), and are on a continuing trajectory to be even more successful in promoting healthful foods and beverages. However, schools today offer students many opportunities to consume foods and beverages outside the school meal programs and throughout the school day. For example, students have access to various other food and beverages sold as à la carte in the cafeteria, and other competitive foods and beverages available via vending machines, school stores, classroom parties, and fundraisers.
The School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) found that 43 percent of elementary schools, 74 percent of middle schools, and 98 percent of high schools had vending machines, school snack bars, and other food and beverage sources outside of the school meal programs (Wechsler et al., 2001). A 2005 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found that 94 percent of elementary schools offered foods and beverages for sale outside of school meal programs (Parsad and Lewis, 2006). The GAO found that nine out of ten schools offered competitive foods and beverages through à la carte cafeteria lines, vending machines, and school stores (GAO, 2005).