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School food policies in need of advocacy

Allison Brannan

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     Many students with Celiac disease and extreme food allergies bring packed lunches or order delivery, unaware of the accommodations schools provide to students with special dietary needs. Schools need to provide students with the information to access these health-sensitive meals.

     In January, 2011, the Department of Agriculture published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to update the nutrition standards for the lunch and breakfast programs to align them with the 2005 dietary guidelines. The school cafeteria, based on the Choose MyPlate plan, feeds students fruit, vegetables, grains, meats, and milk. The plan claims to reduce preventable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and type two diabetes.

     Currently, only two students receive soy milk modifications to their lunches at school. For example, students suffering from Celiac must exclude have gluten-free products due to the inflammation that destroys the lining of the small intestine when these substances are consumed.  Legally, the school is not obligated to offer these health conscious foods, but choose to regardless. Once made aware of a student’s food allergens, substitutes can be offered.

     While the average meal costs $2.60, school nutritionists speculate student’s meal payments to steepen with the gluten and allergy free modifications.

     Students require more information on obtaining the necessary health forms for these meals. Schools must inform students on where the form can be accessed and the importance of them.  Currently, the Fort Smith Public School’s health form resides on the district website, as well as in either the Counselor or the front offices.  Nutrition standards and rules also need updating, as decade-old laws simply cheat teenagers out of their own dietary choices.

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School food policies in need of advocacy