School-based interventions can help students, parents, teachers, and administrators eat nutritious foods by providing programs, policies, and environments that support healthy lifestyles (e.g., nutritious foods in school lunches and vending machines). Schools are also useful resources for increasing education and resources in the broader community (e.g., educating parents, providing a place for cooking classes for community members).
Previous work in school-based settings has found:
- Many schools communicate regularly with students, teachers, and parents (e.g., parent newsletters, Channel One programming, student newspapers, daily announcements), which can easily be used to encourage nutrition behaviors.
- Schools may be well-suited for nutrition education interventions because they assess and store information on individuals (e.g., students, employees) and communication systems for these individuals are already in place. These settings make it easy to distribute individually tailored information to participants.
- School-based interventions can often be a more appropriate learning environment for children and adolescents than a medical setting.
- Nutrition education interventions implemented in schools have the capacity to reach a population that might not otherwise have access to clinical services.
- School children represent a captive audience that is eager to learn new ideas. Providing nutrition education in schools during the developmental years will reach students when they are beginning to make their own lifestyle choices.
- Success and ownership are maintained when schools develop their own implementation plan, work out problems, have broad involvement among teachers and staff and other staff, and reach their own solutions.
- Nutrition interventions in schools can have a significant effect on adolescents’ food choices because a large proportion of their daily energy is consumed at school.
- Teachers can be effectively used in rural health education campaigns to implement sound health practices among children. Coordinated efforts need to be made between school personnel and health educators.
- The school lunch program can complement and reinforce what is learned in the classroom and serve as the learning laboratory for nutrition education.
- Since more than 24 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program, the school environment offers an ideal opportunity to modify nutrition behaviors and promote healthful eating patterns, especially among low-income children who eat the majority of their meals at school.
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