The PlanSector

Food Access, Security and Health

Goal 4

Healthy food education and choices for all children and adolescents will be expanded.

Image courtesy of UMass Dining

There is a lack of nutrition education and healthy eating choices for children and adolescents in Massachusetts, according to many plan participants. Lack of such educational resources and limited healthy food choices correlate with higher obesity and related health problems and food insecurity rates, especially among youth.1 To improve these health outcomes, existing federal food assistance, education, and other programs and funding streams can be improved and expanded.

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Recommendations

  1. 4.1 Increase nutrition education, curriculum, and trainings for children and adolescents.
    1. Actions:
    2. 4.1.1 Re-introduce contemporary home economics curricula to public middle and high schools. Contemporary home economics classes could involve an integrated curriculum including basic cooking techniques, MyPlate education, local agriculture education, food budget principles, food safety, nutrient information and labeling, and food-related health benefits and risks.
    3. 4.1.2 Encourage and support nutrition education that is age-appropriate for students in elementary schools.
  2. 4.2 Support Farm-to-Institution programs to increase procurement of locally produced, healthy food by schools.
    1. Actions:
    2. 4.2.1 Provide financial incentives to school districts and academic institutions to modify contracts for local food procurement to include requirements or incentives for food service providers to serve more healthy local foods. Set goals for local food procurement of between 10% and 20% and include mechanisms that increase the transparency of the food procurement process and insure that the “local” origin can be verified.
    3. 4.2.2 Expand existing, and support new, farm-to-school programming to increase the amount of healthy and locally produced foods purchased and served by pre- and K-12 schools, childcare, and after-school facilities. Incentivize expansion and creation of farm-to-school programs with public and private funds to support school districts.
    4. 4.2.3 Increase healthy and local food distribution to small-scale food purchasers, including childcare and after-school facilities. Evaluate ongoing efforts, identify new approaches, and launch pilot projects as needed to achieve this.
    5. 4.2.4 Increase the number of schools that have full service kitchens, and provide additional training for food service staff.
  3. 4.3 Increase and maximize the use of available food assistance programs for children and adolescents, and engage parents in learning and advocacy to improve child nutrition.
    1. Actions:
    2. 4.3.1 Maximize usage of USDA school food programs, including National School Food Lunch, School Breakfast, and Fruit and Vegetable Programs. Encourage school districts to adopt the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). Support the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in efforts to develop and adopt guidance that clarifies how funding will be allocated for CEP-eligible school districts.
    3. 4.3.2 Support the expansion of complementary programs, such as Project Bread’s Chefs in Schools, that support schools in creating appealing, healthy, and local school lunch menus.
    4. 4.3.3 Support more schools and school districts in implementing programming that serves breakfast in the classroom. Support increased awareness of Massachusetts DESE guidance to school districts that breakfast is counted as “time on learning.”
    5. 4.3.4 Support expanded use of USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program, including efforts to increase funding and participation and reduce and streamline paperwork.
    6. 4.3.5 Maximize use of USDA’s Summer Food Program and support efforts that promote and expand the program where there is demonstrated need, underuse, and where there are opportunities to co-locate Summer Food Programs.