A Crusade for Healthier Children Begins

This month, the USDA unveiled an initiative to help communities become more involved in school health and nutrition.  This plan will be put into action through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The act requires schools to have wellness plans that incorporate new nutrition policies in the school cafeteria, require health education classes and more physical education classes for all students.  As childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes rates continue to climb across the country, these actions are necessary.  The act also focused on nutrition in other free or reduced food programs such as the Summer Food Service Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

Recently the USDA realized that just instituting these wellness requirements was not enough to really make the community at large take nutrition and physical activity seriously.  Thus, this July the USDA amended the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to insure that parents, educational groups, and concerned community members could be a part of the crusade for healthier kids.  The act now requires that schools let the general public know exactly what they are doing to provide better wellness programming to students and the community can give feedback or suggestions. In addition, the USDA will revamp its website to provide tools and resources for schools, educator groups and parents to research and brainstorm ways to improve school wellness programs. These new requirements will come into effect in September 2011.  The hope is that gathering community support for local school wellness programs will provide more innovative ideas for improving the health of students as well as make the entire program run more smoothly. 

The USDA is doing its best to ensure that each child in America has access to healthy food and wellness education but it is possible to make a difference at home too.  Contact your local school board to find out how you can be involved in wellness program planning this coming school year.

This summer, get outside with your child to encourage physical activity and prepare healthy snacks together or check out Earth Day Network’s lesson plan ideas for teaching kids about nutrition.  It takes an entire community to raise healthy kids and it is never too late to start!