FARMINGTON, Ark. — The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Farmington Public Schools are working together to create healthier meals for students.
UAMS says the school district recently updated its wellness policy to increase whole grains in meals, prioritize Arkansas-grown produce and products and display healthy food choices to encourage healthier eating among students.
These changes were made after the UAMS Office of Community Health and Research (UAMS CHR) Healthy Food Systems team assessed the district’s current standards and recommended using the “Creating Healthy Policies in Schools: Healthy Foods Toolkit.”
The updated policy includes the following new standards:
- Meals sold to students during the school day and during after-school programs must be at least 51% whole grains, as specified by USDA guidelines.
- Meals sold to students must contain no more than 10% of calories from added sugars, following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- School meals will include Arkansas-grown food that is processed and packaged by companies committed to sustainable practices.
- USDA Smart Snacks standards for beverages sold in elementary and middle schools shall also be applied in high schools, and beverages containing caffeine will not be sold on the high school campus.
- Meals and snacks sold to students will not contain artificial sweeteners.
- Meals and snacks sold to students will not contain dyes.
- The healthiest options, such as salads and fruit, will be prominently displayed in the cafeterias to encourage students to make healthier food decisions.
“We not only want to feed students, we want to help them make healthy food choices,” said Farmington School District Child Nutrition Director Wendy Burrus.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children ages 2-18. The CDC says many of these empty calories come from soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
Health officials say children perform better in school by having a healthier diet and can greatly reduce their risk of developing several health issues, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, dental cavities, and more.
“Students receive up to half of their calories during the school day,” said Bonnie Faitak, who leads the UAMS CHR’s Healthy Food Systems team. “The changes made by Farmington Schools will help nudge students toward consuming healthier meals, which can help them be more successful at school and can help them live longer and healthier lives.”
UAMS has worked with Farmington Public Schools for the past three years as part of the CDC’s Sodium Reduction in Communities Program and Creating Healthy Environments for Schools (CHEFS) program.
Click here to learn more about CHR Healthy Food Systems projects.