K-12 students in Iowa, particularly in rural school districts, are finding healthier food choices in their school lunch rooms and learning about healthy eating habits.
The Healthy Schools/Healthy Students program is nationally administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is overseen in Iowa by the Iowa Department of education and evaluated by the University of Iowa College of Public Health. Natoshia Askelson, assistant professor of community and behavioral health, and researcher in the PPC’s Health Policy Research program, oversees the project at the university level.
The goal of Healthy Schools/Healthy Students is to implement strategies aimed at reducing childhood obesity, provide fresh fruits and vegetables to students who may not otherwise have access to them, and to establish healthy eating habits. The program not only provides healthier choices in the lunchroom, but provides a nutrition curriculum as well.
The UI focuses on the challenges unique to rural school districts, such as lack of access to registered dietitians, scarcity of daily delivery of fresh produce, and the difficulty of smaller lunchrooms’ capacity to process the fresh food.