Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG
Healthy Eating Policy
Food and drink are an essential part of our daily lives. They play a fundamental role in the development of the human being. Making the right choices to support our nutrition requirements satisfies our physiological needs, and also contributes to our mental and emotional development. What we eat and drink is directly related to our state of health. Accordingly establishing a Healthy eating policy is a worthwhile endeavour.
Adolescence is a time of physical growth and development – the most rapid since infancy. It requires adequate intake of energy and nutrients. Eating a nourishing breakfast and a healthy school lunch allows children to take full advantage of the education provided for them.
The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC, 2006) report has shown that many adolescents have poor eating habits. Skipping breakfast and/or lunch is a habit reported by up to 17% of students, while many do not eat good food or drink enough fluid. All this can lessen their concentration levels and make learning more difficult. Research has also shown that the foods eaten at lunchtime can affect behaviour in the classroom during the afternoon: consuming food and drink that are high in fats and sugars, especially fizzy drinks, may cause over–activity, resulting in difficult classroom management.
Obesity – The Policy Challenges: The Report of the National Task Force on Obesity (2005) highlighted the worrying increase in childhood obesity across Europe. Figures suggest that the number of overweight children in Ireland has trebled over the past decade and may be rising at a rate of 10,000 per year. Foods associated with this increase in obesity include energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods such as packaged sweet and savoury snacks and sugar-sweetened soft drinks. The report makes recommendations for the education sector. Two key recommendations provide a strong basis for action by schools:
- Nutrition and physical activity levels of school children should be seen as part of the duty of care of each school, for example in relation to catering for school meals, policy on vending machines, and provision of fresh drinking water.
- All post-primary schools should be encouraged to engage with their student councils and parents associations in promoting the concept of ‘healthy eating and active living’.
Young people spend a large part of the day in school where they eat at least one of their main meals. The home plays the major role in determining healthy eating habits. However, the school, in partnership with parents, can make an important contribution. It is recommended that a whole-school approach be taken in developing a Healthy Eating Policy. This creates a strong sense of ownership among students, staff and parents and a commitment to sustain the improvements.
Aims of the Policy
- To promote the personal development and growth of the student.
- To promote the health of students and establish a foundation to healthy living for the future.
- Promote nutritional awareness.
- Positively affect healthy eating among students.
- Raise levels of concentration within class through the consumption of healthy food.
- Support and encourage long-term healthy eating habits in students.
Parents and students who are providing their own lunch should abide by the following suggestions to ensure that the student has a healthy lunch.
What could be in a healthy lunch?
- Brown Bread Sandwiches or rolls with cheese, meat or other fillings.
- Pasta or Rice (Wholegrain)
- Nuts (Almonds , Brazil, Walnuts)
What should not be in a healthy lunch?
- White Bread
- Crisps, salted nuts or popcorn
- Chocolate, sweets, lollipops or jellies.
- Chewing gum.
- Cake, biscuits.
- Chocolate spread.
- Fruit juices
- Fizzy drinks.
What drinks could we include in a healthy lunch?
Break time & Lunch
We will aim to improve the frequency of teachers giving feedback to students on their lunches and snacks. Along with school staff parents are encouraged to advise their children on what to buy when leaving the school for lunch times. If the students wish to purchase fast-food they will not be permitted to bring it back to onto school campus.
We also propose, with the help of Transition Year students, that soup become available at lunch time. This would attract students to eat the healthy option rather than purchasing unhealthy items from the shop.
As part of our healthy eating policy, we aim discontinue the selling of sugary drinks in the school shop. As a healthy alternative only water / milk would be sold instead. In the interest of intrinsic motivation and self-discipline we don’t believe it is necessary to restrict sugary drinks entirely from the school but it will not be possible to purchase these drinks on the school grounds. To promote the drinking of water in school, we hope to put water fountains around the school where students can refill bottles free of charge.
Teaching and Learning around Nutrition
As part of the Social, Personal and Health Education (S.P.H.E.), Science and Sports Science and Home Economics programmes and modules we aim to continue to support students’ understanding around the positive effects of healthy eating and drinking. We also aim to introduce an 8 week module on nutrition for transition years starting September 2016.
We hope to create as much awareness as possible about healthy eating in our school. To do this we hope to post information sheets in every classroom that are informative and creative to reinforce the message of healthy lifestyle. We plan to discontinue the giving of fizzy drinks to students, both attending Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG, and visiting for various curricular or extra-curricular activities. This undermines the campaign for healthy eating amongst students.