SHNAC (not SNAC) Gives Kids a Voice in School Health

At the first meeting of our school’s Student Health and Nutrition Advisory Council (SHNAC!), the group elected officers, established norms and set goals in just a half hour. Yesterday I was honored to join the group, and I was amazed at their awareness and interest in making their school healthier. Here are some highlights:

  • Until recently, students picked up their lunch trays in the cafeteria and brought them back to their classrooms. Our principal estimated this took about 15 minutes out of each day, so in the meeting, we ran the numbers to find that over the entire school year, students were spending the equivalent of about 7.5 days waiting in the cafeteria line! Think of all the learning they missed out on!
  • They said they wanted bottled water as a beverage choice for lunch, and we discussed dispensers to avoid generating waste.
  • Someone suggested a build-your-own breakfast bar with oatmeal, cream of wheat, fruit, yogurt, granola and other healthy items. They thought a fruit and salad bar for lunch would also be great.
  • One student mentioned that we need to consider the cost of such changes because ‘healthy stuff is more expensive.” Another concurred, “Yeah, like at McDonalds, have you noticed a burger is $2 and a salad is $5, and the yogurt parfait is made with canned fruit!”
  • I asked them how they knew something was healthy or not. They said knew colorful fruits and vegetables where healthier and they were also familiar with the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid.
  • We discussed whether the Chicken Taco was healthier than the Chicken Patty on Bun. One student thought the sandwich would be a better choice if the taco shell is fried. We thought about what kinds of foods we usually eat with tacos (they named lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa), and Chicken Patty on Bun (ketchup, mustard, pickles).
  • During the taco vs. sandwich discussion, one student said there’s no way we can see the vitamins inside the food, so how do we really know? I asked them if they knew what a whole food was. We talked about nature vs the factory. One student said he used whole foods to make risotto in the after school cooking club led by a parent/chef.
  • For several years now, our school has hosted a weekend organic farmers market. This year, for the first time, our students will run a booth there, selling craft and food items they have made.

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