Students eat about a third of their daily food at school. In conjunction with the fact that at school students are expected to be mentally present and attentive for approximately 5 hours of lessons, it is clear how important it is that students are eating healthily while away from home. But this is easier said than done. There is no uniform, national policy in Canada regulating childhood nutrition at school. Schools are also the venue for easily accessible cafeteria food and unhealthy vending machines, the latter which has become a hotly contested issue between school administrations and concerned parents’ committees. Especially during the morning rush, it is easy for children to forget their lunch box and instead resort to acquiring their midday meals from the cafeteria, a routine that can easily become habitual.
The Journal of School Health has published time and time again the positive effects of eliminating certain victuals like soda and fast food from a child’s diet. These small dietary restrictions lead to improved academic performance among surveyed students by improving concentration in the classroom. In January 2011 researchers from the world’s first multidisciplinary Open Access journal, PLOS ONE, reported a 48% increase in the risk of depression among students who consumed the most trans fats. Food regulation has a direct and observable correlation with mood regulation, from which we can assume that students exhibiting a better mood in class are more likely to retain information better and contribute to classroom learning.
In addition to protecting their own health in the long run, students who are encouraged to eat well at school and are discouraged from buying lunch at vending machines perform better academically and on standardized tests.
Aside from adopting a national policy that is yet to be created, what do you think Canadian schools need to do to help children eat well?