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Rising obesity rates, the increase of type 2 diabetes and the prevalence of food allergies are just a few reasons most states have policies that limit the types of snack foods and beverages available for sale in school. But tasty treats and sugary snacks aren’t just limited to vending machines and school cafeterias. Often these foods are used in the classroom as rewards or incentives, for celebrations and even in fundraisers.

It’s not to say food doesn’t have a place in the classroom. In fact, class parties and celebrations that incorporate food can create excitement, encourage camaraderie and help students feel welcome. And snacks, when healthy, can increase concentration, reenergize sleepy students and even improve performance on standardized tests. However, it’s important to strike a balance between tasty indulgences and healthier alternatives. This e-newsletter offers ideas schools and educators can use to achieve a healthy balance in the classroom.

  • Everything in moderation: There’s no doubt about it—everyone loves a school party. But too much may be too much. For instance, the Center for Science in the Public Interest points out that pizza, cake, sugary drinks and candy are sometimes all served at one school party. This many treats, offered too frequently, can lead to unhealthy eating habits. The CSPI, in its Healthy School Celebrations document, says to limit parties involving food to one per month—and only offer one junk-food item per party.
  • Swap your focus from food to fun: There are numerous food-free ways to celebrate, incentivize and reward students. Elementary-age students may enjoy free-choice play time, a movie or dance party, extra recess time, or non-food rewards, such as eraser sticks or bookmarks. Middle- and high-school students may be incentivized with a fun pen or brainteaser book, by forgoing the seating chart for the day, or by holding class or lunch outdoors. The focus here is to swap from food to fun.
  • Fit fundraising: Fundraising is an important activity for many schools. But school fundraisers often involve selling not-so-nutritious foods and treats. Try a fit fundraiser instead, like a walkathon, car wash, plant/flower sale or craft fair—the sky’s the limit. You may even consider selling school logo’d merchandise at your next athletic or music event. Parents and students will love showing their school sprit with a logo’d hoodie or T-shirt while benefiting their school’s bottom line.

We hope suggestions from this article help promote balance between tasty treats and healthier alternatives. Give one or two a try, and see what you think!

Siegel, Bettina Elias. “Candy and Junk Food in the Classroom: The Other ‘Competitive Food'” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 June 2013. Web. Retrieved 13 Aug. 2015.

Brozak, Jennifer. “How Does Food in Class Affect Children in School?” LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., 30 June 2015. Web. Retrieved 13 Aug. 2015.

“Healthy School Celebrations.” (n.d.): CSPInet.org. Web. Retrieved 13 Aug. 2015.

“Healthy Fundraisers.” Action for Healthy Kids. (n.d.): ActionForHealthyKids.org. Web. Retrieved 13 Aug. 2015.

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