KubotaoftheOzarks

Ozarks schools switching to ‘Smart Snacks’

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Back to school lunches available these days are a far cry from the pastas and sugar cookies from only a few years ago.

Back to school lunches available these days are a far cry from the pastas and sugar cookies from only a few years ago.

WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Research shows at least half of secondary school students consume one snack food or more a day at school. In many cases, vending machines still offer candy, sugary drinks, and high-calorie, low nutrient foods instead of healthier options.

“Forty-three states now have policies in place to govern what types of snacks school districts may offer. These policies vary state to state,” says Greg Carter, 4-H youth development specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

In 2014-2015, recommendations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture were released to aid in driving schools across the county to offer healthier food options.

The “Smart Snacks in Schools” policy is designed to provide consistent minimum nutrition standards nationally regarding snacks that students purchase, and have access to, during the school day. These foods must not exceed limits on fat, salt, and calories.

“These policies matter as researchers found that school-age children that live in states with strong restrictions on the sale of unhealthy foods gained less weight than those in states with no such policies,” said Carter.

According to Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, 28 percent of Missouri’s children are overweight or obese compared to one-third nationwide.

Missouri is participating in the ‘Smart Snacks’ food policy program that requires school lunches to include a whole grain-rich food product, fruit, vegetable, dairy product or protein food.

Breakfast before should start with a combination of fresh fruit and grains.

Breakfast before should start with a combination of fresh fruit and grains.

“This is a wonderful thing, as we know that proper nutrition positively correlates with a student’s academic success. Our children deserve a healthy meal, and I am more than pleased that our schools provide that for them,” said Carter.

Missouri 4-H is University of Missouri Extension’s youth development program. The 4-H program helps to create opportunities for young people to be valued, contributing members of their community. To learn how to get involved locally go to mo4h.missouri.edu.

Residents of the Missouri Ozarks can contact any of these 4-H youth development specialists and educators with MU Extension for information: Jennifer Hancock in Christian County, (417) 581-3558; Greg Carter in Howell County, (417) 256-2391; Bob McNary in Jasper County, (417) 358-2158; Karla Deaver in Lawrence County, (417) 466-3102; Jeremy Elliott-Engel in Newton County, (417) 455-9500; Velynda Cameron in Polk County, (417) 326-4916; Willa Williams in Taney County, (417) 546-4431; or Janice Emery in Texas County, (417) 967-4545.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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