You might be surprised that standards for school meals have not changed in 15 years, despite all of the attention on childhood obesity and nutrition related issues. Thanks to new guidelines the U.S. Department of Agriculture introduced last week, we will begin seeing less starchy vegetables, more whole grains, lower-fat milk and less sodium in our children’s school lunches.
Unfortunately, these guidelines will not apply to other places in the school such as school stores and vending machines. At Advocates for Health in Action (AHA) we are concerned about the mixed messages being sent by not making the requirements consistent across the school environment, and we are working diligently to address this issue locally.
Speaking of local, here in Wake County we are very proud of all of the healthy things that are happening in our schools. We are seeing school gardens pop up across our county, including the Willow Springs Elementary Grow Zone, which not only teaches about healthy eating but has aligned with the standard course of study for math, science, history, and language arts.
Candy bar fundraising sales are being replaced with walk-a-thons that are earning up to $50,000 per school – including a Title I school here in Wake County. Our schools are beginning to find ways to create healthier environments and we are seeing healthy changes all across our county.
The obesity epidemic will not be solved overnight, but we are encouraged by the efforts that are being made at our schools. Parents, now it is your turn to serve healthy options at your dinner table so that your children will like some of the new options that will be showing up in a school near you. It looks like leafy greens will be making an appearance on the menu.
Know A School That Is Going Above and Beyond? AHA is currently rewarding schools for going the extra mile through the Brains and Bodies Award. Encourage them to apply.
Laura Aiken is a community health specialist with WakeMed and is director of Advocates for Health in Action.