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Gardening Solves Academic Achievement



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Gardening Solves Academic Achievement



Gardening allows children to experience a greater connection to nature, fostering self-confidence and focus at school and reducing obesity.


Parker, et al., Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board scholar, 12

[Lynn, Emily Ann Miller, Dietrician, Elena Ovaitt, Institute of Medicine Keck Center S enior Program Assistant, and Stephen Olson, Rapporteur, 2012, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, “Alliances for Obesity Prevention: Finding Common Ground: Workshop Summary,” https://www.nap.edu/read/13305/chapter/4#20, pp.18-20, 6/28/17, KF]



Gardening has many positive effects on children, adults, and the community (Box 3-1), but its most enduring effects may be the least tangible. “Go back to a time when you found yourself in a garden. What does that bring to mind?” asked Mike Metallo, president and chief executive officer of the National Gardening Association (NGA). “For me, it hits a reset button. It helps me put everything in perspective. I have a sense of place. I understand myself in relation to the world.

Many children today, especially in the inner cities, lack opportunities to experience a garden. They live in an environment of concrete, asphalt, and maybe a few scraggly trees and other plants. They are not experiencing the benefits of having a connection with nature,” said Metallo.

Urban gardens can be any collection of plants with which children or adults are engaged. It can be herbs in pots on a fire escape. It can be plants in a raised bed indoors or outdoors. “There are all types of gardens, and each garden has its place and its purpose and its uses,” said Metallo.



NGA, a leading authority and resource for gardeners of all ages, has a grant program through which it works with corporate donors to install gardens in schools. The observed effects of these gardens are increased fruit and vegetable consumption, increased physical activity, and decreased sedentary behavior. Children also learn more about the sources of the foods they eat. “People don’t understand where their food is coming from because they don’t live in an environment where [unprocessed] food is easily accessible,” Metallo said. “It comes to them packaged, it comes to them in cans, it comes to them sorted out. But they have no idea what happened to get it there. And that is a serious issue.”

Besides its demonstrated potential to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and boost physical activity (see Box 3-1), gardening changes the relationships among children, parents, and the community. In this way, gardening contributes to a variety of social, cultural, and educational goals. For example, NGA has developed a curriculum that uses gardening to teach the academic content specified in education standards so teachers can achieve the same outcomes as they would using their usual curriculum.



Data compiled from educator observations of NGA’s garden grant program point to a variety of benefits, including better attitudes toward school, greater self-confidence, and improved social skills. Two of the attitude changes cited most frequently are in attitudes toward nutrition and the environment. “The children didn’t mean to learn about nutrition this way, but they did, just by engaging in the experience,” Metallo said. He ended by mentioning NGA’s initiative “A Garden in Every School,”17 a manifestation of the organization’s belief that school gardens are a component of positive change that will lead to achieving positive outcomes, such as a reduction in obesity.


Gardening allows Farm to School participation­– key to education and nutrition


Mills, farm to school coordinator for a nonprofit organization promoting sustainable and healthy communities, 16

[Lydia, April 2016, The Education Digest, “Farm to School Leads School Lunch Revolution”, http://search.proquest.com/docview/1753451166?accountid=1557&rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo, accessed 6/30/17, JBC]



School lunch is in the middle of a revolution. After decades of nuggets and peas, students and school administrators are starting to demand more. In Illinois, much of the landscape is farmland, but the food grown there is rarely placed in a school salad bar or blended into cafeteria spaghetti sauce. While there are obstacles, the school lunch revolution has helped connect farmers and students through local food sales and curricular connections. This movement is called Farm to School, and it is quickly growing.

The purpose of the National Farm to School Network is to enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.

In Illinois, Farm to School encompasses three main areas: the cafeteria, the classroom, and the garden. If school or school district has a goal of starting a Farm to School program, it doesn't have to source all local produce or have farmers visit the cafeteria. If a school builds a raised bed and has students plant vegetables in the garden, it is engaging with Farm to School.

Often, schools find that one project leads to another. If students plant a garden, they may want to visit different types of farm operations. This could introduce new ideas about possibilities for agricultural careers. In rural areas, schools with Farm to School programs are reviving Future Farmers of America and 4-H groups, some for the first time in years. Students learn to appreciate agriculture while learning real, hands-on skills in the garden.

Schools in Valley View CUSD365U, in the Romeoville area, have found gardens a powerful learning tool. Meghan Gibbons, food service director for the district, created a grant program for schools to use when creating gardens. This initial connection between the cafeteria and the garden was a powerful partnership. "Though the school receives guidance from our department, they bring their unique spin to each garden," Gibbons said. "Our first pilot garden started in 2012-2013 and now eight of our 19 schools have 'Edible School Gardens.'"

Bringing garden fresh or locally-grown food into nutrition education has the added benefit of tasting fresh and delicious.

In the classroom, Farm to School can operate as a standalone curriculum or as a part of existing curricular modules. At Valley View, "Just about every subject has been taught in our gardens, making a tie to our K-12 curriculum," Gibbons said.

Many nutrition-focused Farm to School curricula are available. Although frequently used in health education, these can be used in many other subjects.

Teaching about food in the school garden and the classroom is a natural way to transition a cafeteria from the status quo to a part of the school lunch revolution. Local food procurement is not without hurdles. However, the USDA offers training and toolkits for food service directors to use when developing bids, so they can prioritize and select distributors who buy food from local farmers. Many schools find that once students are excited about local food, it is much easier to change the way food is purchased for lunch.

Oak Park ESD97 started its Farm to School program after deciding to improve the food served in the cafeteria. The district changed its bid to increase the amount of produce from local farmers, and discovered that when it brought in more local food, students were eating better. Anna Gacke, district assistant director of food and nutrition services, said, "We are proud to serve local food to students about once a week, depending on the season. So far this year, we have offered local apples, salad greens, kale mixes, broccoli slaw, baked potatoes, and cauliflower."



Serving local food in the cafeteria created a culture shift in the school overall. More healthy food promotion is done through the cafeteria, including days when students dress up as different fruit and vegetable colors each day of the week. Food service participates in wellness committees and helps teachers create activities connected to the local foods served. High school students maintain gardens and serve the produce once a year at a special meal. School lunch is in the middle of a revolution. After decades of nuggets and peas, students and school administrators are starting to demand more. In Illinois, much of the landscape is farmland, but the food grown there is rarely placed in a school salad bar or blended into cafeteria spaghetti sauce. While there are obstacles, the school lunch revolution has helped connect farmers and students through local food sales and curricular connections. This movement is called Farm to School, and it is quickly growing.

The purpose of the National Farm to School Network is to enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.

In Illinois, Farm to School encompasses three main areas: the cafeteria, the classroom, and the garden. If school or school district has a goal of starting a Farm to School program, it doesn't have to source all local produce or have farmers visit the cafeteria. If a school builds a raised bed and has students plant vegetables in the garden, it is engaging with Farm to School.

Often, schools find that one project leads to another. If stu- dents plant a garden, they may want to visit different types of farm operations. This could introduce new ideas about possibilities for agricultural careers. In rural areas, schools with Farm to School programs are reviving Future Farmers of America and 4-H groups, some for the first time in years. Students learn to appreciate agriculture while learning real, hands-on skills in the garden.

Schools in Valley View CUSD365U, in the Romeoville area, have found gardens a powerful learning tool. Meghan Gibbons, food service director for the district, created a grant program for schools to use when creating gardens. This initial connection between the cafeteria and the garden was a powerful partnership. "Though the school receives guidance from our department, they bring their unique spin to each garden," Gibbons said. "Our first pilot garden started in 2012-2013 and now eight of our 19 schools have 'Edible School Gardens.'"

Bringing garden fresh or locally-grown food into nutrition education has the added benefit of tasting fresh and delicious.

In the classroom, Farm to School can operate as a standalone curriculum or as a part of existing curricular modules. At Valley View, "Just about every subject has been taught in our gardens, making a tie to our K-12 curriculum," Gibbons said.

Many nutrition-focused Farm to School curricula are available. Although frequently used in health education, these can be used in many other subjects.

Teaching about food in the school garden and the classroom is a natural way to transition a cafeteria from the status quo to a part of the school lunch revolution. Local food procurement is not without hurdles. However, the USDA offers training and toolkits for food service directors to use when developing bids, so they can prioritize and select distributors who buy food from local farmers. Many schools find that once students are excited about local food, it is much easier to change the way food is purchased for lunch.

Oak Park ESD97 started its Farm to School program after deciding to improve the food served in the cafeteria. The district changed its bid to increase the amount of produce from local farmers, and discovered that when it brought in more local food, students were eating better. Anna Gacke, district assistant director of food and nutrition services, said, "We are proud to serve local food to students about once a week, depending on the season. So far this year, we have offered local apples, salad greens, kale mixes, broccoli slaw, baked potatoes, and cauliflower."

Serving local food in the cafeteria created a culture shift in the school overall. More healthy food promotion is done through the cafeteria, including days when students dress up as different fruit and vegetable colors each day of the week. Food service participates in wellness committees and helps teachers create activities connected to the local foods served. High school students maintain gardens and serve the produce once a year at a special meal.

In the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School census, food service directors reported spending $6.4 million on food produced locally. That is a fraction of the $42 million spent in total. Farm to School programs not only have amazing impacts in the classroom, they also serve as an economic stimulus in rural communities.

As the National Farm to School Network states, Farm to School empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. Studies show that when children learn about where food comes from in a classroom setting, they actually do eat more fruits and vegetables. Farm to School helps students grow more likely to make healthy choices throughout their lives.

In the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School census, food service directors reported spending $6.4 million on food produced locally. That is a fraction of the $42 million spent in total. Farm to School programs not only have amazing impacts in the classroom, they also serve as an economic stimulus in rural communities.

As the National Farm to School Network states, Farm to School empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. Studies show that when children learn about where food comes from in a classroom setting, they actually do eat more fruits and vegetables. Farm to School helps students grow more likely to make healthy choices throughout their lives.

School lunch programs are working now, but progress is slow- federal funding and policies are necessary to maintain growth


Union of Concerned Scientists 15

[February 2015, Union of Concerned Scientists, “Lessons from the Lunchroom: Childhood Obesity, School Lunch, and the Way to a Healthier Future”, http://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/expand-healthy-food-access/lessons-lunchroom-childhood-obesity-school-lunch#.WVgzxNMrK1t, accessed: 7/1/17, SK]



Children need healthy food. This should go without saying, but the current U.S. food system makes it hard to ensure that kids get the kinds of foods they need to grow into healthy adults. The average U.S. child eats only one-third of the fruits and vegetables recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

This problem is especially acute for children from lower-income and racial and ethnic minority families. These children often lack adequate access to fresh, healthy food, while unhealthy processed foods—made artificially cheap in part by federal subsidies—are readily available. Coupled with environmental factors, this leads to a predictable result: high obesity rates.

Obesity rates among children nearly tripled between 1970 and 2000; today approximately 16% of American’s youth are classified as obese. Obesity has disproportionately affected minority children, especially in recent years: since 2000, the rise in obesity rates has leveled off for white children, but it continues to climb for African-American and Hispanic children.

Obese children are 10 times more likely than their peers to become obese adults—and adult obesity has serious health consequences, including increased risk of type II diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic diseases. These impacts not only mean shorter and less fulfilling lives for millions of Americans; they also carry a heavy price tag in health care costs.

Childhood obesity also plays a key role in a cycle that can trap low-income children: poor health and missed school days result in lower academic achievement, which leads to lower-paying jobs—and low incomes make it harder to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Healthy school lunches can be a key factor in breaking this cycle by improving kids’ diets. Children consume about half of their daily calories at school; for low-income children, school lunch may be their only real meal of the day. And the foods kids eat at school influence their lifelong eating habits.

For decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has administered school meal programs that provide funding to support free and reduced-price (FRP) meals for students who meet income eligibility criteria. Meals offered under the program must meet nutritional standards.

In recent decades, subsidized school meals had tilted toward processed foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium. In response to these trends, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010, which required the USDA to update its standards for school meals to align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Schools began implementing these new standards in 2012.

The report shows that school lunch programs have a positive impact on the eating habits of students. Fifth grade FRP meal participants ate fruits and vegetables 22.2 times per week on average, versus 18.9 times for non-FRP participants. While both groups ate fewer fruits and vegetables in eighth grade, FRP meal participants continued to eat them more often than their non-FRP peers (19.2 vs. 17.6 times per week).

Unfortunately, the positive impact of school food programs is not strong enough to overcome other unhealthy influences on children’s diet. Our analysis found that FRP meal participants drank more sugary beverages and ate more fast food than their peers, and they were more likely to be obese—gaps that widened between 5th and 8th grade.

Starting in 2012, schools began to implement the stronger nutrition standards mandated by HFFKA. While researchers are still in the early stages of evaluating the effectiveness of the updated standards, the evidence so far is promising. For example, a 2014 Harvard School of Health study found that vegetable consumption increased by 16.2 percent in the first year of implementation at four low-income schools. Other studies have shown that changes to the way healthy foods are presented and marketed in the cafeteria can have significant benefits.

Stronger school lunch policies have made a positive difference in children’s diets—and Congress needs to build on these gains by improving those policies further. The report has several specific recommendations for Congress as it renews the HHFKA in 2015:

Protect gains made in 2010



Increase the federal meal reimbursement rate

Improve nutrition education

Finance school cafeteria kitchen equipment

Prioritize fruits and vegetables



Increase funding for the Farm to School grant program

Not allow politics to trump science



National Policy Key



Federal action key to nutrition – avoids chaos and it’s across the board – states empirically fail


Fried, New York University Department of Nutrition, Food Studies & Public Health AND Simon, University of California Hastings College of the Law Assistant Professor & Marin Institute Research and Policy Director, 7

(Ellen and Michele, 7/20/2007, Duke Law Journal, “THE COMPETITIVE FOOD CONUNDRUM: CAN GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS IMPROVE SCHOOL FOOD?” http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1324&context=dlj, Volume 56: 1491, Accessed 7/1/17, GDI - JMo)

One way to approach the answer is to ask what level—federal, state, or local—is best for policymaking. Or is it best to have all three operating at once and just hope that effective policies result? In considering the best course of action from a public health perspective, it is usually wisest to have the strongest policy across the board. This leads us to conclude that federal action is best. Such matters do not take place in a vacuum, however, and the political context for policymaking must be considered.

Generally, there is an inverse relationship between feasibility and effectiveness. Although it may be more effective to set nationwide nutrition standards (and avoid the chaos that reigns at the local and state levels), it is also less feasible. A general rule of thumb is that it is harder politically to get things done at the federal level, somewhat less hard at the state level, and easiest at the local level. That is why so many public health advocates are fond of touting local policies as a critical strategy.227



But another political challenge raises questions about the effectiveness of federal policymaking: agency capture. Can the USDA be expected to set meaningful nutrition standards when the agency has demonstrated time and again how much corporations influence it?228 Although it would seem that states are more immune to political pressures when it comes to the regulatory process, this is not always true. In Arkansas and Illinois, compromise and politics infused the state regulatory process as well.229

Policies to promote healthier food and farms must first address the need of marginalized communities- fed key to create a national food policy


Union of Concerned Scientists, 16

[February 23, 2016, Union of Concerned Scientists, “Working Towards a More Equitable Food System”, http://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/expand-healthy-food-access/working-toward-more-equitable-food#.WQdxdtIrL4s, accessed: 7/1/17, SK]



The broken U.S. food system is a problem for all Americans. But like many of our national problems, it hits communities of color and low-income communities hardest of all. African-Americans, Latinos, and low-income Americans disproportionately lack access to healthy food—and as a result, they are more likely to suffer from diet-related chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease than the average American. They are also more likely to work at food system jobs that feature some of the lowest wages in our economy as well as unsafe and unhealthy working conditions.

These inequities are propped up by agricultural policies that promote the production and distribution of unhealthy processed foods while putting obstacles in the way of making healthy food more available and affordable for everyone.

So fixing our food system is not only a matter of health and sustainability—it’s also a matter of justice.

Recent research has confirmed what food activists and journalists have been saying for years: all Americans do not enjoy equal access to healthy food. Inequities in food availability and affordability operate along both racial and income lines, with low-income communities of color facing a double disadvantage.

The solution is not as simple as “more supermarkets.” Transportation, affordability, and other food access barriers need to be overcome as well. Communities across America are coming up with innovative ways to meet these challenges locally, as profiled in our 2016 report Fixing Food: Fresh Solutions from Five U.S. Cities.



But local governments and community groups shouldn’t have to work so hard to overcome obstacles put in place by the current system and the federal policies that drive it. We need a national food policy, coordinated across all relevant federal agencies, aimed at promoting healthy food, economic opportunity, and environmental sustainability.

As part of this effort, we need to ensure that the most reliable food source for many American children—the school cafeteria—can be counted on to serve healthy food to nourish growing bodies and minds. Childhood obesity, a problem with serious, lifelong potential health consequences, continues to grow at a faster pace for African American and Latino children than for the population as a whole. So maintaining high standards for healthy school food is also a matter of food justice.

National Food Programs Solve



The National School Lunch Program is a crucial source of healthy food for impoverished children- a federally coordinated comprehensive food and well-being policy is key


Union of Concerned Scientists 16

[October 29, 2016, Union of Concerned Scientists, “School Lunch and Beyond: Better Food Policy for Healthier Kids”, http://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/expand-healthy-food-access/school-lunch-and-beyond-better-food-policy-healthier-kids#.WVgyzdMrK1t, accessed: 7/1/17, SK]



Our children need—and deserve—healthy food. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and nutrition experts, can help kids grow up physically healthy, mentally alert, and capable of meeting the challenges of adulthood in the 21st century.

But in a food system dominated by unhealthy, artificially cheap processed foods, access to healthy food is a serious problem for many American children. As a result, childhood obesity has grown rapidly over recent decades—especially for low-income and minority children—with long-term health consequences that will shorten lives and send health care costs soaring.

In this grim food landscape, there’s one oasis for millions of kids: the school cafeteria.



The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), created by Congress in 1946 and shaped by additional legislation over the following decades, provides support—mostly in the form of cash subsidies—for schools to provide meals to students. Participating schools must serve lunches that adhere to federal nutrition standards, and they must offer free or reduced price (FRP) lunches to children who qualify.

For many students, NSLP meals are a crucial source of healthy foods that their families may not have the access, money, or time to provide during the rest of the day. The program also turns lunchtime into an opportunity for nutrition education: by showing students what a healthy diet looks like, the school can provide a counterpoint to the steady stream of messages promoting unhealthy, processed foods to children and their parents.

In the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), Congress improved the program’s nutritional standards, bringing them into better alignment with current federal dietary guidelines. Although there is considerable evidence that HHFKA is working, it has provoked a backlash from some school nutrition professionals, who claim that it has resulted in increased waste and negative attitudes toward healthy food.



To assess how well subsidized school lunches, succeed at putting healthier food in kids’ mouths, UCS analyzed data from a Department of Education study that tracked the eating behavior of a cohort of students. The study surveyed the group as fifth graders in 2004 and again as eighth graders in 2007.

The resulting report, Lessons from the Lunchroom, shows that federally subsidized school lunches do make a difference: children who were FRP lunch recipients ate more fruits and vegetables than their peers who were not. However, the report also confirms the challenges that school lunch programs face in the larger food environment: FRP students consumed more fast food and sugary drinks than non-FRP students, and they were more likely to be obese, a difference that increased between fifth and eighth grade.

In 2015, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act is up for renewal. This is a crucial opportunity to strengthen what is working about current federal school lunch policy and to provide support for schools that have struggled to implement HHFKA successfully.



Our policy brief, Healthy School Meals, Healthy Children, offers several specific recommendations that Congress should incorporate into a renewed HHFKA—including increased reimbursement funding, better nutrition education, investment in cafeteria equipment, and increased support for Farm to School programs.

Ultimately, both the successes and the challenges of school lunch programs point us back to the bigger picture: the need for a comprehensive national food and well-being policy that will align food-related public policy initiatives around a consistent set of priorities, with the goal of ensuring access to healthy, sustainably grown food for every American. UCS has begun working with a broad range of allies to build a movement that will make such a national food policy a reality.

National School Lunch Program solves – federally coordinated policies are key to solve


Marcus, Reuters Health Reporter, 10

[Marcus, November 23, 2010, Reuters, “School lunch programs might break poverty cycle”, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-school-lunch-idUSTRE6AM5PE20101123, accessed: 7/1/17, SK]

(Reuters Health) - Teens who live in households where food is scarce suffer academically, but a new study has found that government programs to provide meals in schools can reverse this effect.

According to the researchers, the findings suggest that school programs aimed at reducing so-called food insecurity can break an insidious cycle of poverty: poor children go hungry, get bad grades, don't go on to college and fail to rise out of their socioeconomic status -- raising children whose lives follow the same unfortunate narrative.

"Food insecurity is more problematic in the long term if it occurs prior to adolescence, but it doesn't mean that adolescents are more resilient than younger children," said study leader Christelle Roustit, of the Research Group on the Social Determinants of Health and Healthcare, in Paris, France. The researchers reported their findings in the medical journal Pediatrics.



The severe recession has taken a toll on food security. In the United States, a recent report by the Department of Agriculture found that nearly 15% of American households faced food insecurity at some point in 2009, the highest level since officials began tracking the measure in 1995.

Food insecurity in childhood is thought to undercut scholastic achievement in at least two ways. It deprives the body of nutrients necessary for proper mental and physical development, and it creates an atmosphere of stress and uncertainty that saps a kid's desire to attend school and to perform well.

In the new study, Roustit and her colleagues analyzed questionnaires given to 2,346 public high school students in Quebec, Canada, along with nearly 2,000 of their parents. The surveys asked about issues of school performance and socioeconomic status and included several questions addressing food security at home. These included whether a lack of money prevented the family from eating enough, or from buying a sufficient variety of foods.

Just over 11 percent of teens in the study experienced food insecurity at home, according to the researchers. Of those, two-thirds attended schools that offered free or low-cost breakfast, lunch or snacks, allowing the researchers to look for an effect of the meals program on academic performance.

The study revealed that food insecurity was strongly associated with problems in school. However, children with food insecurity at home performed significantly better academically if their school offered meal assistance. They were much less likely to be held back a year, to score badly in language testing or to rate their overall academic performance as poor.

Although the data come from the 1990s, Roustit said a new survey of Quebec adolescents is now in progress. "We would be able to compare the results of 1999 to 2009 in few years," she said.



Nicola Edwards, a dietician and food policy expert at California Food Policy Advocates, an Oakland-based nonprofit, said the results of the study are unsurprising. If children are hungry they cannot learn, Edwards said. "There is a direct correlation between food insecurity and academic performance," she said.

In the United States, teachers and school administrators report that children who take advantage of food assistance programs in schools have improved behavior, fewer absences and better test scores, Edwards added.

Under the federal Child Nutrition Act, more than 31 million American school children receive free or inexpensive lunches through the National School Lunch Program. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level ($28,665 for a family of four) are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level ($40,793 for a family of four) are eligible to receive lunch for a cost of no more than 40 cents.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National School Lunch Program cost $9.8 billion in 2009. A study of this program that was published earlier this year supports the Canadian findings. Dr. Peter Hinrichs at Georgetown University in Washington DC reported in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management that for children who participate in the National School Lunch Program, "the effects on educational attainment are sizable."


School lunch programs are working now, but progress is slow – federal funding and policies are necessary to maintain growth


Union of Concerned Scientists 15

[February 2015, Union of Concerned Scientists, “Lessons from the Lunchroom: Childhood Obesity, School Lunch, and the Way to a Healthier Future”, http://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/expand-healthy-food-access/lessons-lunchroom-childhood-obesity-school-lunch#.WVgzxNMrK1t, accessed: 7/1/17, SK]



Children need healthy food. This should go without saying, but the current U.S. food system makes it hard to ensure that kids get the kinds of foods they need to grow into healthy adults. The average U.S. child eats only one-third of the fruits and vegetables recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

This problem is especially acute for children from lower-income and racial and ethnic minority families. These children often lack adequate access to fresh, healthy food, while unhealthy processed foods—made artificially cheap in part by federal subsidies—are readily available. Coupled with environmental factors, this leads to a predictable result: high obesity rates.

Obesity rates among children nearly tripled between 1970 and 2000; today approximately 16% of American’s youth are classified as obese. Obesity has disproportionately affected minority children, especially in recent years: since 2000, the rise in obesity rates has leveled off for white children, but it continues to climb for African-American and Hispanic children.

Obese children are 10 times more likely than their peers to become obese adults—and adult obesity has serious health consequences, including increased risk of type II diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic diseases. These impacts not only mean shorter and less fulfilling lives for millions of Americans; they also carry a heavy price tag in health care costs.

Childhood obesity also plays a key role in a cycle that can trap low-income children: poor health and missed school days result in lower academic achievement, which leads to lower-paying jobs—and low incomes make it harder to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Healthy school lunches can be a key factor in breaking this cycle by improving kids’ diets. Children consume about half of their daily calories at school; for low-income children, school lunch may be their only real meal of the day. And the foods kids eat at school influence their lifelong eating habits.

For decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has administered school meal programs that provide funding to support free and reduced-price (FRP) meals for students who meet income eligibility criteria. Meals offered under the program must meet nutritional standards.

In recent decades, subsidized school meals had tilted toward processed foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium. In response to these trends, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010, which required the USDA to update its standards for school meals to align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Schools began implementing these new standards in 2012.

The report shows that school lunch programs have a positive impact on the eating habits of students. Fifth grade FRP meal participants ate fruits and vegetables 22.2 times per week on average, versus 18.9 times for non-FRP participants. While both groups ate fewer fruits and vegetables in eighth grade, FRP meal participants continued to eat them more often than their non-FRP peers (19.2 vs. 17.6 times per week).

Unfortunately, the positive impact of school food programs is not strong enough to overcome other unhealthy influences on children’s diet. Our analysis found that FRP meal participants drank more sugary beverages and ate more fast food than their peers, and they were more likely to be obese—gaps that widened between 5th and 8th grade.

Starting in 2012, schools began to implement the stronger nutrition standards mandated by HFFKA. While researchers are still in the early stages of evaluating the effectiveness of the updated standards, the evidence so far is promising. For example, a 2014 Harvard School of Health study found that vegetable consumption increased by 16.2 percent in the first year of implementation at four low-income schools. Other studies have shown that changes to the way healthy foods are presented and marketed in the cafeteria can have significant benefits.

Stronger school lunch policies have made a positive difference in children’s diets—and Congress needs to build on these gains by improving those policies further. The report has several specific recommendations for Congress as it renews the HHFKA in 2015:

Protect gains made in 2010



Increase the federal meal reimbursement rate

Improve nutrition education

Finance school cafeteria kitchen equipment

Prioritize fruits and vegetables



Increase funding for the Farm to School grant program

Not allow politics to trump science


Effective federal policies improve children’s diets and reduce obesity – studies prove


Johnson, et al., University of Washington Center for Public Health Nutrition associate director, 16

[Donna, Mary Podrabsky, Anita Rocha, January 4, 2016, The Jama Network “Effect of the Healthy Hunger- Free Kids Act on the Nutritional Quality of Meals Selected by Students and School Lunch Participation Rates”, http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2478057, accessed: 7/1/17, SK]

Importance: Effective policies have potential to improve diet and reduce obesity. School food policies reach most children in the United States.

OBJECTIVE:

To assess the nutritional quality of foods chosen by students and meal participation rates before and after the implementation of new school meal standards authorized through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:



This descriptive, longitudinal study examined changes in the nutritional quality of 1,741,630 school meals at 3 middle schools and 3 high schools in an urban school district in Washington state. Seventy-two hundred students are enrolled in the district; 54% are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Student food selection data were collected daily from January 2011 through January 2014 during the 16 months prior to and the 15 months after implementation of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

EXPOSURE:



The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:



Nutritional quality was assessed by calculating monthly mean adequacy ratio and energy density of the foods selected by students each day. Six nutrients were included in the mean adequacy ratio calculations: calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, fiber, and protein. Monthly school meal participation was calculated as the mean number of daily meals served divided by student enrollment. Mean monthly values of mean adequacy ratio, energy density, and participation were compared before and after policy implementation.

RESULTS:


After implementation of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, change was associated with significant improvement in the nutritional quality of foods chosen by students, as measured by increased mean adequacy ratio from a mean of 58.7 (range, 49.6-63.1) prior to policy implementation to 75.6 (range, 68.7-81.8) after policy implementation and decreased energy density from in a mean of 1.65 (range, 1.53-1.82) to 1.44 (range, 1.29-1.61), respectively. There was negligible difference student meal participation following implementation of the new meal standards with 47% meal participation (range, 40.4%-49.5%) meal participation prior to the implemented policy and 46% participation (range, 39.1%-48.2%) afterward.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:



Food policy in the form of improved nutrition standards was associated with the selection of foods that are higher in nutrients that are of importance in adolescence and lower in energy density. Implementation of the new meal standards was not associated with a negative effect on student meal participation. In this district, meal standards effectively changed the quality of foods selected by children.

Federal prioritization key to preserving school nutrition programming


Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund President, 17

[Marian, President of the Children's Defense Fund and its Action Council whose Leave No Child Behind mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood, 5/22/17, Huffington Post , “Summertime, When The Livin’ Is Hard For Hungry Children”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/summertime-when-the-livin-is-hard-for-hungry-children_us_59232bbfe4b0b28a33f62e76, accessed 7/1/17, JBC]

Ella Fitzgerald knew a lot about the haves and have nots. She grew up poor and at 17 had been homeless and hungry for a year before she was “discovered” at The Apollo in Harlem in 1934. Think of the millions of hungry children in rich America today who might never be “discovered” or are kept from realizing their talents. And for them summertime is very hard with bouts of hunger. On the last day of school they’ll leave behind more than teachers and friends. They lose access to the school breakfasts, lunches, and after-school snacks that help keep them healthy and ready to learn during the school year. For many children these are their best or only meals of the day.

The 100 percent federally-funded Summer Food Service Program will once again this year be a food lifeline for millions of low-income hungry children during the long hot summer. Right now many community sponsors, including school districts, local government agencies, camps, and private nonprofit organizations are working through their state agencies to be ready to serve healthy meals to millions of children this summer. The Summer Food Service Program tries to meet the need and helps to deliver the dollars to pay for the basic nutrition every child needs every day. For communities that use it, the benefits are enormous. It not only feeds children but provides much needed summer jobs for youth and adults often in communities where jobs are scarce — including cafeteria workers, bus drivers and many others who enable children to stave off summer hunger.

The tragedy is too few of the children who receive school breakfasts or lunches get free meals in the summer. Many more go hungry. The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) notes more than 20 million children received free or reduced-price school lunch during the 2014-2015 school year, but only 3.2 million of them — one in six — received meals during summer 2015.

No states come close to reaching all their hungry children during the summer. In 2015 only nine states and the District of Columbia served summer meals to more than 20 percent of children who participated in free or reduced-price lunch programs during the school year. Eleven states served summer meals to fewer than one in 10 of their low-income children. But some good news is that state efforts are slowly growing: 29 states did better in summer 2015 than in summer 2014.

States and localities can and must do far more to stop summer hunger. It’s unconscionable that states and communities are leaving millions of dollars on the table that could be used to feed hungry children right now and create jobs supporting summer feeding programs in communities that desperately need them. No communities should be allowed to ignore these funds. As Coretta Scott King once said: “I must remind you that starving a child is violence.”Mrs.



The first step, of course, is to make sure federal, state and local summer nutrition programs remain a budget priority and do not lose ground or go backwards. When more than one million households with children have no income but benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps as I still call it), and there is talk of threats to even that critical piece of the safety net, every eligible community must find a way to ensure their children are fed. Find out where the summer feeding sites are in your community. Check with other organizations in your community that provide summer activities for children to help them find ways to add meals. They may need a little help from local foundations or community donations to cover extra expenses like refrigerators or coolers. Smaller programs may be able to link to other food programs in their community to get meals to feed the children in their care. If transportation to summer feeding sites is a problem for children, as it is in a number of states, mobile food vans may be an option with help from local bus or other transportation services.

Summer feeding programs could become the hub for other child-focused activities. Adding programs and services and keeping sites open longer could not only reduce summer hunger but help communities create some desperately-needed jobs and implement greatly needed quality out-of-school-time programs — a win-win. Other communities are testing electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to help families purchase extra food for children during the summer. We should be using the Summer Food Service Program as effectively as possible with the achievable goal of ending summer child hunger in every community.

Congressional Action Key



Congressional funding needed for student health and nutrition


Gurley, J.D., Harvard Law School, 16
[Kristie, B.S., Georgia Institute of Technology, 1/20/16, Harvard Journal on Legislation, “FOR THE HEALTH OF IT: HOW THE QUANTIFIED HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE USDA NUTRITION STANDARDS JUSTIFY REAUTHORIZATION AND INCREASED FUNDING FOR SCHOOL MEAL REIMBURSEMENT”, http://harvardjol.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/HLL104_crop.pdf, pg. 411-415, accessed 7/1/17, JBC]
By the fall of 2013, just a year-and-a-half after the final nutrition standards were promulgated, schools had already made great progress implementing the standards. Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, reported that “[s]chools across the country are increasing their efforts to prevent childhood obesity by serving healthier school meals providing more time for physical activity, and helping kids learn about proper nutrition.”160 Dr. Thornton discussed early USDA survey results showing an eighty percent success rate overall, with some states reporting a one-hundred percent transition rate to the new meal standards.161 Additionally, the “Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project” found that in 2012 ninety-four percent of U.S. school districts were on track to meet the updated nutrition standards.162 The survey also showed that only 0.15% of schools cited difficulty in complying with the new standards.163

Unfortunately, it is unclear whether this success will be maintained.164 An appropriations rider in the fiscal year 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act provided a waiver option for states to allow their schools to opt out of the whole grain-rich requirement, and it also suspended sodium reductions planned in the 2012 nutrition standards.165 In debates leading up to the Child Nutrition Program reauthorization in 2015, many commentators concerned with the cost of the nutrition standards called on Congress to reduce whole grain and fruit and vegetable requirements.166 At the time of writing, it is unclear whether Congress will respond to or resist these concerns.167

Yet, as demonstrated above, the USDA nutrition standards offer numerous benefits that likely would have justified the higher cost of the proposed rule, and most certainly justify the far lower cost of the final rule. One of the primary advantages of conducting a cost-benefit analysis is that it permits policymakers to assess the pros and cons of a rule across a baseline of monetized values. While this advantage is most evident at the agency level, as most agencies are required to explicitly assess the costs and benefits of any proposed economically significant rules, the advantages can be applied more broadly. Congress may look to the costs and benefits of a given rule in making budget decisions or modifying statutes.168 And the public may demand congressional or agency action based on explicit cost and benefit comparisons.169

This broader application of cost-benefit analyses is highly relevant for the USDA nutrition standards in order to defend them against cost-based attacks. First, critics allege that many students dislike the foods offered under the new menus,170 creating increased food waste as well as decreased participation, thus leading to decreased funding for schools through fewer student-purchases and federal reimbursements.171 Second, critics assert that the increased costs of food, labor, and administration of the programs—as well as decreases in funding because of student participation declines— cause schools to reduce staffing or meal variety in order to meet the new standards, which may harm student participation even further.172

While the validity of these cost-based attacks is contested,173 the central tenor of the debate remains focused on cost. However, this Note has argued for an analogous focus on benefits. As demonstrated above, the quantified benefits of the nutrition standards—both in their proposed and final forms— outweigh the overall costs, even with possible declines in student participation or schools dropping out of the school meal programs.174 The free-standing benefits to children’s health are incredibly high, and a breakeven analysis—even on just one benefit output—demonstrates that the rule is cost-justified.175 Subsequent research finding positive correlations between the nutrition standards and student health provide additional evidence of the benefits of the rule.176 Quantification of these benefits—even years after their promulgation—should inform future action in maintaining the nutrition standards in their most robust form.

Yet if the cost-based attacks on the nutrition standards are valid, an important implication remains. While the benefits of healthier school meals will be felt at the federal, state, and local levels, the burden is most directly borne by individual schools that must struggle to implement the nutrition standards on constrained school budgets. The HHFKA did provide schools with a six-cent per meal increase for lunches (not breakfasts) that met the higher nutrition standards.177 Additionally, the USDA has provided some funding via grants for schools to purchase needed equipment and to invest in training of kitchen personnel.178 Nevertheless, many object that federal funding is insufficient to cover the cost of new burdens imposed by the nutrition standards.179
Because the benefits of the nutrition standards are so large, Congress must play a more significant role in bearing the increased costs. Proponents of the standards have called on Congress to increase its reimbursement rates, as well as provide additional funding for equipment and training.180 Such an increase could incentivize school compliance with the nutrition standards and ensure their prolonged health impact across the nation. For example, the School Nutrition Association has noted widespread concern over school meal program deficits, and it recently recommended federal reimbursements increase by thirty-five cents per meal (including both lunch and breakfast) to cover the cost of complying with the nutrition standards.181

The federal response to funding requests will depend in large part on available sources of funding. However, consideration of these requests should be viewed in light of the clear benefits of the nutrition standards. Availability of healthy school meals is a national issue with long-ranging benefits, which, when even modestly quantified, clearly justify their costs. Still, the costs of these programs cannot be placed on schools via an un- funded mandate. Congress should continue to seek ways to assist schools in complying with the nutrition standards. Increased federal assistance for students in the short-term could lead to dramatic cost-savings in the long-term—a solution Congress should embrace.

V. CONCLUSION Although the costs—and especially the benefits—of the USDA’s nutrition standards were not appropriately quantified, further analysis shows the great promise of the final rule in bringing significant health benefits to American school children. While these benefits do come with significant costs, those costs are clearly justified. For future reauthorizations of and appropriations to the Child Nutrition Programs, Congress should maintain the nutrition standards as finalized by the USDA. Because the costs of these standards are borne by individual schools, Congress should also increase its reimbursement rates for the school meal programs, as well as training and equipment grants. Increased federal assistance will not only offset the cost of improved meals for students, but also incentivize more schools to remain in or join the school nutrition programs. By improving healthy food offerings at school, Congress can satisfy the dual purposes of the child nutrition programs: to provide a steady market for American agriculture, and—more importantly—provide for the health of America’s youngest and most vulnerable.

Congressional mandate of USDA to control junk food solves - key to set definitions of FMNV


Fried, New York University Department of Nutrition, Food Studies & Public Health AND Simon, University of California Hastings College of the Law Assistant Professor & Marin Institute Research and Policy Director, 7

(Ellen and Michele, 7/20/2007, Duke Law Journal, “THE COMPETITIVE FOOD CONUNDRUM: CAN GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS IMPROVE SCHOOL FOOD?” http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1324&context=dlj, Volume 56: 1491, Accessed 7/1/17, GDI - JMo)



The definition of FMNV must be updated; if the USDA will not exercise its authority, then legislation must direct the agency to do so. Also, to exercise that authority meaningfully, the congressional mandate must clearly provide time and place regulatory powers to the USDA. Nutritional standards must be applied in all school venues throughout the entire school day.

One cogent analysis (predating the act but still relevant to an analysis of competitive food) was offered by Carol Tucker Foreman, the administrator central to the proceedings that established the USDA definition of FMNV.130

Foreman was appointed assistant secretary of agriculture for food and consumer services by President Carter and served in that capacity from 1977 to 1981. During her tenure, Congress shifted authority over junk food from local control back to the USDA through a 1977 amendment to the Child Nutrition Act requiring competitive foods be approved by the USDA.131 The return of regulatory powers directed the secretary to disallow only those foods that did “not make a positive nutritional contribution in terms of their overall impact on children’s diets and dietary habits.”132 The secretary was not given further direction on how to determine the standards to apply in identifying foods destined to be banned or restricted in schools that participated in the NSLP. By comparison, the 2006 Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act offered several measures for the secretary to consider when viewing the entire nutritional picture. Even with the additional directives detailed in the bill, determining new nutritional standards requires the exercise of some discretion; this is one area in which regulators’ decisions are potentially most vulnerable to challenge. The congressional directives, however, are intended to ensure that the USDA broadens the scope of the FMNV definition and employs a strong science-based approach while attempting to stave off industry attacks on the methodology as arbitrary and capricious.

[Note: FMNV = Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value]

Comprehensive Fed Policy Solves



Federally coordinated policies are failing now – reformation of agricultural policies is key- only cooperation across federal agencies can solve


Union of Concerned Scientists 16

[January 2016, Union of Concerned Scientists, “The Case for Presidential Action to Reform our Farm and Food System”, http://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/strengthen-healthy-farm-policy/case-presidential-action-reform-farm-food-system#.WVgzQNMrK1t, accessed: 7/1/17, SK]



The current food system isn't working for Americans.

Too many of us lack access to affordable, healthy food, as evidenced by sharply climbing rates of diet-related illnesses like diabetes and hypertension, especially in communities of color.

Mid-sized family farms are dwindling, rural communities are hurting, and food system jobs are among the lowest-paying in the nation.

Outdated industrial food production methods are exhausting soil, causing costly environmental damage, and leaving farmers ever more vulnerable to climate change impacts like flooding and drought.

These problems are all made worse by the tangled mess of current federal food and farm policy, in which policies often work against each other. For example, on the one hand we spend considerable resources trying to encourage people to eat healthier food—and on the other, we invest billions of dollars in junk food by funneling the lion's share of farm subsidies to commodity crop producers.

The president could play a key leadership role in transforming this dysfunctional food system.

For decades, taxpayers have paid for federal policies that have produced an abundance of commodity crops, but have failed to promote the health and well-being of all Americans. Special interests that profit from the status quo have exerted their influence to maintain it, blocking policy reforms that could bring about the kind of transformative change our food system badly needs.

By taking action to promote such reforms, the president could show true leadership. Here are some steps that could begin the process:

1. In the administration's first year, take action on these priorities, which will benefit both rural and urban Americans and save taxpayer dollars:

Reform agricultural polices, subsidies, and supports to ensure fair markets and pricing for diverse farms of all sizes.

Increase children's access to healthy food and curtail junk food marketing to kids.

Support sustainable, diversified, and organic farming in all communities

End Fair Labor Standards exemptions for farmworkers.

Ban the practice of feeding antibiotics to animals that are not sick.

2. Coordinate efforts across federal agencies to reduce inefficiency, increase productivity, and develop policies that ensure every American has equal access to healthy, affordable food whose production is fair to workers and good for the environment, and keeps farmers on their land.

The administration's leadership on this front will strengthen the health and well-being of Americans across the economic spectrum, improve farmers' and workers' lives and rural economies' vitality, and enhance the nation's overall prosperity.

A comprehensive federal policy is key to solve the growing issue of obesity and rising health care costs


Neal, University of Dayton Law Review Comment Editor, 14
[Gabrielle, March 2014, University of Daytona, “Childhood Obesity: Why The Federal Government Should Enact Legislation To Meet The Goals Of The Affordable Care Act By Resolving A Growing Issue”, https://udayton.edu/law/_resources/documents/law_review/vol39_no2/childhood_obesity.pdf, p. 316-17, accessed: 7/1/17, SK]

Even with all of the information and resources available, “the obesity crisis continues to grow in the United States.”102 Consequently, a comprehensive policy must be adopted to impede the growing obesity rate.103 The American Medical Association has provided some guidelines for what a comprehensive policy might look like.104 The most evident reason for this need is that “obesity is contributing substantially to the nation’s exploding expenditures on health care.”105 The ACA gives some focus to nutritional labels and obesity counseling, and the HHFKA implements nutritional standards for all foods sold in school.106 Nevertheless, if weight loss and management require at least a two-pronged approach (healthy diet and physical activity),107 where are the mandates for physical activity? The National Association for Sport and Physical Education and the American Heart Association released their most recent Shape of the Nation Report in 2010.108 The report shows that some improvements have been made in recent years in the number of states that actually require physical education for children.109 However, “no progress has been made in providing daily physical education in all grades K-12.”110 Only five states require physical education in grades K-12 and only two states align with the nationally recommended guidelines for physical education.111 Thirty-two states permit waivers or exemptions from students taking gym class, which is an increase from 2006.112 Perhaps in attempts to deal with mounting pressures to meet expectations, schools have diverted money needed to support physical education programs, therefore resulting in more waivers.113 The No Child Left Behind Act114 placed “emphasis on academic standards and testing[.]”115 Paradoxically, a 2010 CDC report analyzed a large body of evidence linking physical education and school-based physical activity with academic performance, including cognitive skills and attitudes, academic behaviors, and academic achievement.116 In other words, in an effort to improve test scores, schools have cut time and funding for physical education even though students who engage in physical activity achieve higher test scores. Indeed, childhood obesity continues to be a growing issue with innumerable consequences.117 The federal government only scratched the surface by instituting certain preventive healthcare measures in the ACA and by raising nutritional standards in school lunches with the HHFKA.118 However, the piecemeal legislation addressing the obesity issue could be allied by a comprehensive policy to improve physical activity in America’s schools, which will reduce the overall cost of healthcare for the nation.




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