Eating habits are developed during childhood. If they are taught and encouraged to pick healthier food and beverage early on, these behaviors will likely remain with children throughout their life.
Plus, teaching them to enjoy healthy options helps them develop a positive relationship with food, which can prevent eating disorders.
The school plays a pivotal role in promoting healthy habits among children since this is where they spend most of their waking hours. Schools influence the knowledge and behaviors of kids when it comes to diet – from the lessons taught in classrooms about nutrition to the food served in the cafeteria.
Schools can encourage healthy eating habits among their students by sending the right messages and involving the whole school community. Below are ways you can promote a healthy diet and nutrition in your school.
Serve healthy food and beverage options
The Department of Education established school food standards as part of its School Food Plan program. These guidelines include portion recommendations for fruits and vegetables, starchy food (i.e., bread), milk and dairy, sources of protein (e.g., meat, fish, eggs, beans) and drinks.
The school is required to follow these standards for all food served throughout the day, including the cafeteria, tuck shops, breakfast clubs, vending machines and after-school activities.
Children are also eligible for school milk under the EU subsidy scheme.
Assign a member of the Senior Management Team to oversee all aspects of food
All primary schools have a Senior Leadership or Management Team (SMT or SLT) composed of the head teacher, deputy head teacher and core subject coordinators. Assign one member of the SMT who will take charge of all food-related concerns in the school.
This person is responsible for working with the school council and catering staff to write the Food Policy. They will ask the children of their opinion of the food in school and take these into account when drawing up the guidelines.
The entire school community should know who the designated food officer is so that they know who to approach when they have concerns.
Provide practical food education training for your staff
Train your staff about diet, nutrition, food safety and hygiene, especially PSHE teachers and the catering personnel. The training will deepen their knowledge and skills when it comes to educating children about proper eating habits.
The staff can also share their experiences and learnings from the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programs they’ve attended, such as nutrition diploma courses, safety and hygiene programs and local training from community dietitians.
Involve parents and carers when designing your food policy
Finally, consult the parents when creating your food guidelines. Talk to them about the kind of food and beverage they pack for their children. It will be much easier to develop positive eating habits among kids if they consume healthy options both in and outside of school.
Also, some parents may have kids with dietary restrictions, such as food allergies. These kinds of information help you create an inclusive nutrition plan in your school.
Establish a way for parents to give their feedback regarding the food in school to help you improve your policies.
Make nutrition education part of your health education curriculum and ensure that your school’s environment supports these teachings. Schools are a place of growth and development. And one way to promote positive development among children is to ensure that they’re getting the right nutrition and diet.