Most Minnesota parents believe the quality and health of food directly affects how children succeed in schools. Most also think schools could do a better job providing healthy foods and educating students about healthy choices.
But almost no parents act on those concerns.
That’s the takeaway from a new poll commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s Center for Prevention. Only 12 percent of the parents with schoolchildren who were polled said they had taken any steps to improve nutrition in their local schools, according to poll results released last week.
The hesitancy might reflect classic Minnesota stoicism or even guilt, as parents don’t want to demand improvements by schools when they know they also could do more to improve their children’s nutrition. (I know that box of Lucky Charms in my pantry wasn’t magically deposited by my local school!)
But advocates at Blue Cross used the poll results to encourage parents to get involved, so schools know that improving nutrition is a priority.
“Parents and caregivers can play an important role by advocating for healthier options,” said Janelle Waldock, Blue Cross’ vice president of community health and health equity.
Almost all (95 percent) of the 503 parents who were polled wanted students to have at least 20 minutes to eat meals at school, while 90 percent supported nutrition education and 79 percent endorsed efforts to remove unhealthy foods from schools altogether.
Blue Cross cited examples of schools focusing on nutrition, such as the “grab and go” breakfast carts at Sanford Middle School in Minneapolis that have increased the number of students eating well before their classes.
The poll also asked more broadly about student health and asked parents what schools should do first and foremost to improve it; 35 percent said schools should start by instituting short breaks for physical activity throughout the day.
Stocking healthy foods and eliminating junk options also ranked as top priorities.