WASHINGTON, DC—Bag the junk—that’s the goal of a new website recently launched by the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN). BagtheJunk.org aims to educate, mobilize, and empower members of the school community to help them improve the nutritional quality of foods and beverages sold in school à la carte lines, vending machines, and stores.
The site was launched just weeks before the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its new proposed national nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages sold in schools, which call for schools to offer more snacks with whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, or vegetables as their main ingredient.
“The proposed updates to national nutrition standards for school snack foods are long overdue,” said Nora Howley, NEA HIN’s Acting Executive Director. “It’s critical that we end up with a strong national baseline, but states and school districts can also do a lot on their own to ensure that all students have healthy options available before, during, and after the school day.”
During the 2009-10 school year, 76 percent of high school students, 63 percent of middle school students, and 47 percent of elementary school students could buy unhealthy snack foods at school. Sugar-sweetened beverages, including soda, sports drinks, and high-calorie fruit drinks, also were widely available to students of all ages. Yet evidence suggests that restricting sales of unhealthy snacks and beverages in schools can improve children’s diets, reduce weight gain, and even increase school food service revenues.
“Replacing junk food and sugary drinks with healthy options will be a win-win—for students and for schools,” said Howley. “Schools across the country already are making these changes and they’re seeing great results. We’re encouraging our members to get involved and help their students have better choices.”
BagtheJunk.org highlights stories about schools that are already offering healthier snacks and beverages to students and provides free resources, including video, infographics, fact sheets, and organizing activities that can help school employees and parents create healthy changes in their own schools. The site also features blog posts from experts and news about trends and research related to school foods and the national movement to prevent childhood obesity. Support for the website was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. In 2007, the Foundation committed $500 million toward its goal of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. This is the largest commitment any foundation has made to the issue. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. Follow the Foundation on Twitter (www.rwjf.org/twitter) or Facebook (www.rwjf.org/facebook).
The NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN) is the non-profit health and safety arm of the National Education Association. The organization provides health and safety information, programs, and services for the benefit of over three million NEA members and 43 million students. NEA HIN's mission is to improve the health and safety of the school community through dissemination of information that empowers school professionals and positively impacts the lives of their students.
The foods and beverages schools offer outside of meal programs are often called competitive foods because they compete with school meals for students' spending. Schools sell a variety of competitive foods in vending machines, stores, à la carte lines, and other venues.