By Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director
Policymakers in Illinois and across the country should take note of the article in the July edition of Pediatrics that reports on a study revealing how public middle and high schools offer far fewer healthy foods to their students than elementary schools do. The “less healthy” offerings available in high schools were found in a la carte cafeteria lines and in vending machines and snack bars. In addition, researchers found that less than 20 percent of the schools consistently offered students lunches containing less than 30 percent of calories from fat. Fewer than 50 percent of middle and high schools participated in government programs that provide schools with fresh fruits and vegetables.
In Illinois and a number of other states, nutrition guidelines for food available in school outside of the federal food programs are much less stringent at the high school level than in grammar schools – if they exist at all. With the rates of overweight and obese students rising among adolescents, there is compelling reason for schools to offer students healthy food. Adolescence is a critical time to provide young people (who are beginning to make many lifestyle decisions on their own) with a strong and clear message about the importance of making healthy food choices.