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The term "Nutrition-Friendly Schools" is Project PA's designation for Pennsylvania's efforts to create - Healthy School Nutrition Environments for the children in our state's schools. The nutritional health of the total school environment will continue to be a primary focus of Project PA's efforts.

The Parent project is currently helping parents learn how they can make a difference in establishing healthy home, school, and community environments to positively impact their children's health.

During 2000 Project PA brought the nutrition-friendly schools issues to-school administrators: informing them about connections between nutrition, health, and learning; and motivating them to develop, approve, and adhere to nutrition-friendly policies.

The Showcase Schools project, begun in 1999, promoted collaboration among cafeteria, classroom, and community members. This project helped to set Project PA on a course beyond training school food service personnel and toward improving the nutrition environment in the total school setting.

Background

With the passage of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, local education agencies are required to establish wellness policies to address childhood obesity. These policies were required to include goals for nutrition education, physical activity, and other school-based programs to address student wellness, as well as establish nutrition guidelines for foods offered in schools during the school day.

Environmental Nutrition Strategies

The success of the wellness policies may depend on the extent to which schools are able to make changes that make healthy options the easy choice for students. These environmental changes, which usually involve alterations in promotion, price, access, or availability of healthy options, have shown promise in altering students’ purchasing behavior.

Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity has reached an alarming level, with recent reports indicating that 17% of children and adolescents are overweight.1 This level represents a significant increase since the late 1970s. Childhood overweight is cause for concern because of its association with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and psychosocial problems in childhood as well as increased risk for chronic disease in adulthood. Food choices of most US children do not meet current dietary recommendations, with children consuming less than the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Recent data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that only 20% of teenagers eat fifi ve or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day and only 16% drink three or more glasses of milk a day. More than two-thirds of children exceed the recommended intake for fat and saturated fat.

Role for Schools

Schools are in a unique position to address children’s eating habits and be instrumental in efforts to reduce childhood obesity because of the signififi cant amount of time that children spend in school and the number of children enrolled in schools. Schools can impact children’s eating habits through the foods offered in schools, classroom health education, and the messages students receive throughout the school environment.

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