By GreatSchools Staff
Healthy kids learn better, research shows. Poor eating and fitness habits not only threaten children's physical well-being but also their academic achievement. The right diet and exercise can result in better grades, higher test scores, and greater self-esteem.
Action for Healthy Kids and other organizations have identified ways parents and parent groups can advocate for their children's health at school. Here's what they advise:
Every school district that participates in the National School Lunch Program is required by the federal government to have one. The policy is supposed to include:
Because districts are required to involve parents and community members in developing these policies, your school or district may already have a wellness committee. Find out who is working to promote wellness and how you can be involved.
Eat lunch in the school cafeteria or volunteer to supervise there to find out what choices are offered. Talk to the students about what they like and don't like about eating lunch there. Other things to pay attention to:
Look at your school's playground equipment and sports fields:
Meet with the food service workers to find out about the challenges of their jobs, their training, and, more important, their ideas for improving the food students eat each day.
Ask questions such as:
Offer your sweat equity. Can your parent group make the cafeteria a more attractive place to eat? Does the space need to be reorganized so that students can be served more efficiently?
Offer to investigate outside sources of funds to improve physical education. Heart-rate monitors, salad bars, and dance machines cost money. Some schools have gotten corporate or foundation support to help pay for new programs and equipment.
Be an advocate. Get the support of your principal, cafeteria workers, teachers, and community members to build a healthy learning environment. Action for Healthy Kids' Campaign for School Wellness has a wealth of information and a Wellness Policy Tool. Read "Become a Legislative Advocate for Your Child's School" for tips on letting lawmakers know what you think.
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