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Healthy Eating Policy


Introductory Statement
The following policy was drawn up in conjunction with parents, students, teachers and members of the Board of Management at a meeting in June 2002 and revised in June 2008. This followed an Information Evening for Parents with Nutritionist Liz Kirby from the Western Health Board.
This policy applies to students, parents, educators, school employees, visitors to the school and community leaders and we encourage everyone to be involved in assessing the school’s eating environment and developing a shared vision and an action plan to achieve it.
Health Education is an intrinsic part of the primary school’s spiralling curriculum. It is not only limited to the experiences that take place within the classroom. It relates to all aspects of every day life - the child’s whole experience, both in and out of school. Food and eating, is one very significant fragment of this whole experience.
In standing back to assess where we are, and a way forward, in the development of our health education, it is necessary to explore nutrition and healthy eating. It is therefore logical to develop a nutrition policy for our school. This process, underlines where we are now, and helps to focus upon future needs and strategies.
Whilst other aspects of food and eating are of great significance, the ‘lunchtime experience’ is obviously most relevant here at St Thomas’ National School.
Research findings have helped to underline the need to look more closely at the possibility of a whole school approach to eating, and nutrition education.


Mission Statement
St Thomas’ N.S. Peterswell is committed to protecting and enhancing children’s well-being. Nutrition is one of the elements which affect children’s ability to learn, develop and stay healthy.  Our mission is to make a significant contribution to the general well-being, mental and physical capacity, by encouraging parents to provide healthy, nutritious and appetising snacks/lunches for their children. We as teachers will encourage healthy eating patterns in the classroom by supplying a comprehensive nutrition education programme.

Relationship to School’s Aims
Our healthy eating policy works together with our school mission statement, whereby we ‘we strive to provide a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere…’ in order to meet the ‘… intellectual, physical and cultural needs of the pupils…’

Why a policy is necessary
The world in which we live presents our children with many challenges that affect their health and well-being. Our school needs to reflect on how we can provide for the needs of students in the area of health and nutrition.
Eating habits are established at an early age. What we eat affects our health both now and in the future. Recent European studies highlight that young people eat too much sugar, salt and fat and that they do not eat enough fruit and vegetables. There is a lot of evidence to promote the benefits of fruit and vegetables and there is a definite link between what we eat and our risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
Studies have shown that children, who have regular balanced meals have better attendance in schools, perform better academically and have improved behaviour in the classroom.
Promoting healthy eating will help ensure that healthy children become healthy adults. The school with the support of parents can have a very valuable role to play in promoting health.
The Education Act (1998) provides that schools should promote the social and personal development of students and provide health education for them.

Developing healthy eating guidelines for the school is an ideal way to support and encourage healthy choices.
What does the policy intend to achieve?
The significance of establishing healthy eating habits early cannot be underestimated. Early primary school age can be a time for maximum impact, with equal emphasis on physical activity and other health issues.
Changing dietary patterns needs to be a long term goal. Any planning towards achieving change should be regarded as a series of small successful changes, which, together, eventually add up to a larger impact.
In developing a food and nutrition policy, this school is taking a positive step towards the positive images associated with a Health Promoting School. Our objective is to encourage and promote healthy lunches for all children everyday in addition to increasing their response to healthy choices. Our long-term goal is for the children to make their own healthy choices and to be self-motivated in achieving the overall goal of a healthy lifestyle.

Roles and Responsibilities
What are the responsibilities of the various parties in the school community in the development, implementation and evaluation of this policy?
We encourage all teachers, parents, youth and community leaders to play a part in promoting healthy eating for our children. Students, teachers, and community volunteers who practice healthy eating will be encouraged to serve as role models in the school community.

The School
The school will provide nutrition education through activities which are fun, participatory, age and developmentally appropriate. These activities will emphasise the positive, appealing aspects of healthy eating rather than the harmful effects of unhealthy eating.
Teachers will encourage children who eat nutritious lunches. Traditional ‘rewards’ of sweets and chocolates will be replaced with other rewards such as pens, certificates, photo frames and vouchers.




Try to encourage protein fillings in sandwiches, such as ham, lean meats, turkey slices, cheese, tuna, peanut butter or egg.  Some protein food at lunchtime is important. If your child won’t have a protein filling, make sure they have milk or yoghurt with lunch.  Milk, yoghurt or fromage frais should be regularly included in your child’s lunchbox. Try including tomato or favourite vegetables in sandwiches.

Offer an apple, orange, banana or other fruit each day. Fruit juices may be more popular with some children instead of fruit. Variety is important or children will bet bored.  Getting them to help choose lunch foods and preparing them is important.

Instead of chocolate bars and crisps, offer ‘treat’ foods such as scones, brack, yoghurts, fromage frais, little cans of tinned fruit or plain buns.

Parents of Children with Special Dietary Needs
We at St Thomas acknowledge that there will be some children with special dietary needs. In these cases children will not be limited to the listed foods.

Success Criteria
What indicators will be used to gauge effectiveness of the policy?
Evidence of success will be when children will eat lunches which are balanced, healthy, natural and nutritious.   A long-term result will be the children taking responsibility for coming up with ideas for economic, nutritious ideas for their own lunches.

Monitoring Procedures
Who will do what, when, to see how the policy is working
Individual class teachers will monitor lunches on a daily basis in the first instance and encourage children to participate. At the end of each school term a prize will be offered for the children who are most inventive in creating the healthiest lunchboxes throughout the term.
Individual class teachers will be responsible for daily monitoring of children’s lunches and will encourage positive changes in their approach to healthy eating.



Review Procedures
Who will do what, when to evaluate the effectiveness of the policy and to ascertain what changes, if any?
A review will be held in May 2003 and all committee members will attend to evaluate the programme and make any necessary changes.

The policy will become effective from the beginning of the school year, September 2002.

Implementation Programme
What detailed procedures are necessary to implement the provisions of this policy? Who will devise the procedures? When? How will details be circulated to all concerned? Who will carry out the procedures when they have been devised?

  • Nutritionist – Information Evening for parents and teachers
  • Set up a working group with representatives from teachers, parents, children and Board of Management
  • Draft the guidelines of the policy
  • Circulate to all parents, teachers and children for comment
  • Prepare the final copy
  • Display the guidelines in a prominent place in the school
  • Hold an Information Evening for parents after 3 months
  • Review annually

Guidelines The school encourages healthy, homemade, nutritious and natural foods. We strongly recommend that parents do not purchase manufactured snacks as they are not only extremely expensive, but the nutritional content is extremely low.

  • Our school will promote healthy eating patterns in the classroom and at home
  • We will create an environment which supports healthy eating practices and allows adequate time for food consumption

We will encourage the diet of children to:

  • Include a variety of foods
  • Include adequate foods from the grain, vegetable and fruit groups
  • Include foods low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Limit foods high in sugar content
  • Limit foods high in salt

Foods the school promotes:

    • Sandwiches – Salad, lean meat, chicken, turkey, tuna, peanut butter and egg
    • Salads – vegetables, pasta or rice
    • Breads – particularly brown, wholegrain
    • Wholegrain crackers, pitta bread
    • Fruit
    • Vegetables
    • Drinks – Fruit juices, water and milk
    • Cheese
    • Fruit yoghurts and fromage frais
    • Plain buns, scones, brack, queen cakes

Foods which are not permitted:

  • Crisps
  • Fizzy Drinks and manufactured milk drinks
  • Sweets
  • Chocolate
  • Chewing Gum
  • Tic-tacs
  • Popcorn
  • All commercially-wrapped bars e.g. Panda Licorice bars, Kellogs bars
  • Cheese Strings, Dairylea lunchables and other processed cheeses


Extra-Curricular Activities
At events on school premises such as school matches, healthy snacks will be provided for participants.
The only exception due to its lengthy hours will be the School Tour.  All other activities including swimming lessons, visits to the theatre, short school outings will comply with healthy choice guidelines.
While the general emphasis will be on the positive aspects of the children bringing healthy lunches, it is accepted that there is a need for sanctions to register disapproval of unacceptable choices.
Children’s attention will be referred to the written guidelines (which will be displayed in the school).
Children will be encouraged to self-monitor and self-evaluate their choices.
Children who do not comply with the guidelines on healthy eating will have their ‘snacks’ confiscated and not returned.
Children who fail to make efforts in healthy choices will be monitored and encouraged to make changes
If no changes are made, parents will be asked to attend a meeting with the class teacher to discuss any difficulties they are finding in providing a healthy lunch for their child
Health Promotion in schools is a combination of health education within the curriculum and all the other actions a school takes to protect and improve the health of those within it