School Foods Policy Meeting

I took the opportunity to attend the meeting for health professionals on the development of a school foods policy for the MMSD.
Americans seem to take an “all or nothing” approach to nutrition (either “on” a diet or “off”; restrained with eating all day and anything goes in the evening)–I’m afraid most of us know what I’m talking about. I’m hoping food policy doesn’t take a similar dichotomy.
There is concern that school food service will not be able to operate in the black if they don’t sell food that “students will actually buy and eat”. I think there can be a moderate approach that is healthful. Yes, pizza can still be served, but how about a smaller portion as part of a meal that includes fruit/vegetable/salad and milk?
Here are the recommendations from our clinic–in short, we want to encourage normal meals at mealtimes (a good mix of foods, appropriate portion sizes, reasonable time allotment). Much of what has gone wrong with our eating is this country can be traced to the breakdown of meals and the huge increase in snacking/grazing on processed snack foods. Correcting this accomplishes the first big step in changing our consumption patterns and disease risk.

UW Children’s Hospital Pediatric Fitness Clinic
Position on Effective School Foods Policy
February 1, 2006

  • Offer full meals for a flat fee during breakfast and lunch periods. Choices could be offered within each food group–choice of 2-3 different fruits/vegetables/salad, 2 entrees, etc, but ultimately each child would get a meal. Children should eat meals at meal times and these meals should model current standards for normal, balanced eating.
  • Phase out a la carte lines. A la carte lines encourage the snacking/grazing pattern of eating and increase consumption of processed snacks, desserts, sugary drinks.
  • Maintain nutrition standards for all foods served on school grounds. See “Model School Foods Reform Legislation” ( for examples of specific standards.
  • Reflect current standards and guidelines in school breakfast and lunch menus. For example, since health professionals do not advocate eating French fries every day, the schools should not offer them every day. Or, current nutrition recommendations encourage 3 ½ ounces whole grain foods each day, so whole grains should be part of the mix of foods served at breakfast and lunch.
  • Model appropriate inclusion of desserts, fried and processed foods in school meals. Since children need to learn appropriate ways to include “pleasure” foods into their diets (i.e. reasonable portions in the context of a meal), these foods should appear on school menus. A plan should be in place for the portion size and frequency with which these foods are included on the menu.
  • Schedule longer meal periods to promote normal eating. Meals should feel relaxed and provide social time. When kids are rushed, it impacts the pace of their eating and their food priorities (“I’ll just eat the pizza and throw away the salad if I run out of time”). Increasing food quality/food cost may not improve nutrition if kids throw food away due to time limits.
  • Promote a positive food environment. Less emphasis on labeling foods “good” or “bad”, avoid posting nutritional content of individual foods. Modeling is an effective teaching tool and kids should feel secure that the adults in the school environment are looking after their nutritional health.