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School-Based Nutrition Education

School-based nutrition education is an important step in lifelong learning about healthy eating habits. As children become independent and start making their own food choices, guidance from educators and interactions with peers helps shape their food choices and practices.

LiveWell Colorado recommends the establishment of a statewide farm to school program that incentivizes and provides technical assistance for farm to school and includes school-producer networks, and nutrition education. See Policy Recommendation #7 on page 22 of the Food Policy Blueprint.

In 2009, Colorado updated and revised the K-12 Colorado Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Standards to include health and wellness objectives. These include targets for understanding and assessing healthy eating and food choices at all grade levels.

LiveWell@School Food Initiative works to improve the quality of school food and to educate students about making healthy food choices. These programs include EatWell@School, a student cooking program competition through Denver Public Schools, and Go, Slow, Whoa, an elementary school program teaching healthy food decision-making.

Case Studies

Read about how Denver Public Schools has instituted education on agriculture and food systems in this case study developed by Colorado Farm to School.

Models: Programs & Projects 

An Ounce of Nutrition, a Colorado organization, provides curriculum to schools and supplies teacher trainings on how to successfully implement the “Food for Thought” High School curriculum, which addresses topics related to how food is grown, processed, distributed, marketed, sold and consumed.

Denver Urban Garden’s Youth Education Programs include school garden and nutrition curriculum, youth farmers markets, workshops, and mentorship programs.

Food Friends is a preschool-aged nutrition education program developed by researchers at Colorado State University that provides resources and teaching guides to parents and teachers focused on exposing kids to new foods.

Helping Youth Eat Real School Curriculum, published by Food Day 2012, offers five lessons to teach children the importance of eating real, fresh food; cutting back on processed foods; and advocating for a healthier community.

Action for Healthy Kids is a national non-profit and volunteer network focused on improving nutrition and physical activity in schools. Their Game On! program is a model nutrition education program.

The Nourish Curriculum, geared towards middle school students, offers a rich set of resources to open a meaningful conversation about food and sustainability including learning activities, handouts, and action projects.

FamilyCook Productions offers schools, community-based groups, and other organizations a variety of evidence-based curricula for Pre-K-12 that offer full spectrum food systems lessons from nutrition to cooking.

Reports: Research, Articles, & Guides 

The Colorado Farm to School Primer provides a snapshot of current school food conditions, demonstrates how schools can increase the use of fresh and local foods, and addresses different facets of community engagement.

Colorado Farm to School, in partnership with LiveWell Colorado, has developed a series of “how to” case studies that showcase innovation and models in Colorado. See our in-depth case studies of food systems education in Denver Public Schools and in Montezuma County.

A study published in February 2014 by the CDC reported a 43% decrease in obesity rates for children ages 2-5 between 2003 and 2012.

Tools & Technical Assistance 

The Colorado Farm to School Info Hub includes a comprehensive list of food systems and nutrition curricula.

The National Farm to School Network supports the work of local Farm to School programs all over the country by providing free training and technical assistance, information services, networking, and support for policy, media and marketing activities.

The Farm to School section of the USDA Food & Nutrition Services Division offers tools and resources for nutrition and agriculture education in schools.

MyPlate, a project of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, provides dietary guidelines and conducts nutrition research.

Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) is a tool developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for schools and school districts to assess their health education curriculum.

Farm to School/Preschool Training Templates, developed by the National Farm to School Network, provide templates for effective trainings and to share the value of farm to school in communities across the country.

Procuring Local Food for Child Nutrition Programs, a guide published by the USDA FNS, aims to help K-12 schools operating one or more Child Nutrition Programs with identifying and procuring locally grown and produced food for use at school cafeterias.