In 2000, nearly 1 out of every 3 children in America was obese or overweight, a statistic that had tripled in only 20 years. This rise in childhood obesity prompted national, state, and local organizations to take a look at youth nutrition, specifically in schools, and find programs to support healthy lifestyles, education, and changes in eating habits.
Today, there is a national collaborative effort to create positive changes when it comes to children’s health. Schools have implemented many programs to support these efforts, often employing nutrition services managers to oversee them.
Initiatives in Child Nutrition in Schools
Initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her “Let’s Move!” platform, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was enacted in 2010. This legislation provides funding for and outlines provisions to help improve nutrition programs in schools in order to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce obesity. A few of the programs that have followed in accordance with the HHFK Act and supported by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service include:
- Healthier School Day. Provides free nutrition education curricula and tools related to nutrition standards, regulations, and kid-friendly meals.
- Farm to School. Regional leads provide farm-to-school related support, programming, and information to state agencies.
- HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms. A voluntary certification recognizing schools that have created healthier school environments.
- Team Nutrition. Supports child nutrition programs by providing technical assistance for foodservice, training, and nutrition education.
The New Norm: Nutrition Services Managers
Spurred by this national movement, schools are employing nutrition services managers to spearhead their nutrition programs. In addition to administrative tasks such as menu planning, procurement, and financial planning, nutrition services managers are now responsible for school wellness programs and policies and education to build foundations for healthy communities.
In the wake of events such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, nutrition services managers are also looked upon to provide emergency preparedness plans. Likewise, the rise of food allergies in children have prompted a need for nutrition services managers to work closely with school nurses and other administrators to develop food allergy response plans.
In terms of ongoing education, nutrition services managers may be called on to collaborate with their communities on positive nutrition initiatives. Baldwin Park in California is an example of one such community that worked alongside its school district to implement Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities.
Education to Support the Profession
Many nutrition service careers, including nutrition services managers, require an advanced degree such as an MBA or even a PhD to prepare administrators and leaders to meet today’s challenges in the multidisciplinary field of nutrition and wellness.
An MBA in Health Care Management provides a broad foundation of business, health care, and management to prepare you for a career in school nutrition services. You’ll learn to think strategically about the goals of a school’s wellness and nutrition programs, and implement sustainable approaches based on advanced health care training and knowledge. This career path can also lead to additional nutrition services occupations in clinics, hospitals, and residential care facilities.