Why Healthy Snacks?
It's 2:45 p.m., and students are rushing into your after school program. Lunch was served at 11:30 a.m., which is over three hours ago. These students are hungry!
Not only are they hungry, they need to eat. Children and adolescents need to eat throughout the day to focus on what they're learning and to have the energy to be active.
Why are Healthy Snacks Important?
Providing healthy snacks has benefits for your after school program and the youths it serves.
Benefits to your after school program:
- More youths joining the after school program—healthy snacks are part of an appealing environment.
- Regular attendance— youths keep coming back because they like being fed healthy snacks.
- Better behavior—well fed youths can concentrate and focus.
- Connection with the school day—healthy snacks after school reinforce nutrition education taught during the day.
- Financial sustainability—your program can get reimbursed for providing healthy snacks.
A Successful After School Snack Program
Santa Monica School District
Santa Monica School District (pop. 35,000 students), Santa Monica, California is an urban school district in which approximately 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price school meals.
Twenty after school programs located at schools offer a healthy snack every day. The program is funded by the National School Lunch Program, and serves approximately 8,000 students daily.
Students’ favorite snack items include:
- Tuna salad and crackers
A unique feature of their after school program is that once a month, the food service staff conducts cooking shows for the students (e.g., making fruit smoothies with spinach). Students learn more about healthy foods, how to prepare them, and get to taste the goods!
The true plus of the after school program—YOUTHS EAT MORE FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, and they take what they have learned about healthy eating back home.
Benefits for the youths:
- Better performance on academic tasks (they can focus!)
- Development of healthy eating habits
- Improved health and well-being
- Decreased risk of future chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
After school programs play an important role in the fight against childhood obesity, by providing physical activity, nutrition education, healthy role models, and yes, healthy snacks!
Tools and Resources
How Are Student Health Risks and Resilience Related to the Academic Progress of Schools? is a report that summarizes the connection between student health and academic performance. The effect of poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles on test scores is included.
CDC. (2004). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999–2002.
CDC. (2005). National Health Examination Survey (1963–1970).
The Center for Weight and Health. (2001). Pediatric Overweight: A Review of the Literature. University of California, Berkeley.
CDC. (2001). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1997–1999.
California Center for Public Health Advocacy. (2002). An Epidemic: Overweight and Unfit Children in California Assembly Districts, Available online (PDF).
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