School food: Parents can make a huge difference!

Many parents commented on my previous school lunch posts, and told me that they opt to pack a lunch for their kids. It’s sad to say, but for most American kids the only potential source for a healthy nutritious lunch may be the lunchbox from home.

No matter how you approach the school lunch and school’s foods for sale issue, I’m convinced that we as parents have more influence on our kids’ food choices–through what we do, what we say and how we eat–than anyone else. It’s within our reach to exert our influence to better our kids’ diet and health.

A few initial steps:

    • Find out what’s served in the school cafeteria – Unfortunately, the school lunch in many schools isn’t a healthy one. What’s more, competing with the school lunch are junk foods sold through vending machines and other sources. Find out what is served in your kids’ school, and if it doesn’t meet your standards, do something about it: Send your kids to school with a lunchbox and healthy snacks from home; speak up and try to effect change in the school lunch program in a practical and positive way.
    • Say no to the endless snacking – While celebrating birthdays with home-made cupcakes used to be a lovely, wholesome joy, many kids encounter way too many unhealthy snacking opportunities at school and in after school activities. From bake sales, candy fund-raisers to snack foods as incentives, prizes or rewards, our kids have treats that are no longer treats, and every day is a special occasion.

It’s amazing to see how many calorie dense, salty sugary and fatty snacks a school kid encounters every day in a typical American school. No wonder a third of our kids are overweight or obese!

If your kids’ school-day offers too many snacking opportunities talk to your school officials. Write about it. A school can enact new snacking policies by just deciding to do so!

The Obama administration will ask Congress to improve childhood nutrition by removing sugary snacks and drinks in school vending machines. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is planning some bold steps to revamp school nutrition programs. I hope legislation will be part of changing the school food landscape, but our activity as parents will always be the most important tool in effecting the change we need to better our kids’ nutrition and health.

For further reading and involvement:

Published on: February 14, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Ayala Laufer-Cahana MD

Dr. Ayala is a physician (Pediatrics and Medical Genetics), entrepreneur, artist, and mother of 3 school age active kids. Dr. Ayala’s main interests are preventive health care and nutrition. She is a serious home cook and strongly believes that eating healthy and enjoying good food go hand in hand.

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