School Nutrition Programs are Essential in Improving Children's Health: Updated Position from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

May 2, 2018

CHICAGO – The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has published an updated position paper that highlights the importance of school nutrition programs and services in improving the health and academic performance of students throughout the country.

The Academy, the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior and School Nutrition Association issued the joint position paper "Comprehensive Nutrition Programs and Services in Schools," which was published in the May issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, School Nutrition Association and Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior that comprehensive, integrated nutrition programs in preschool through high school are essential to improve the health, nutritional status and academic performance of our nation's children. To maximize impact, the Academy, School Nutrition Association and Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior recommend specific strategies in the following key areas: food and nutrition services available throughout the school campus; nutrition initiatives such as farm to school and school gardens; wellness policies; nutrition education and promotion; food and beverage marketing at school; and consideration of roles and responsibilities.

School nutrition programs provide food security every school day for millions of at-risk children, most of whom are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, according to the position paper.

Nutrition and health experts recognize the importance of being well-nourished in order to be well-educated, the paper states. School nutrition leaders are developing creative ways to maximize participation in school meal programs so students can optimize their academic performance.

"School nutrition programs extend far beyond the cafeteria walls and provide learning opportunities, especially for STEM subjects in classrooms, gardens and area farms," said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy President Donna S. Martin.

"Nutrition and culinary education opportunities benefit all students and their families. We recognize the challenges of serving meals at school, like scheduling enough time for students to eat. School nutrition leaders are committed to finding effective solutions that benefit all students and their families," Martin said.

The Academy's position paper was written by registered dietitian nutritionists Dayle Hayes, MS, RD; Isobel R. Contento, PhD; and Carol Weekly, RDN, SNS.

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The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of nutrition and dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at eatright.org.