Last updated: August 25. 2013 7:07AM - 210 Views

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It may not feel like good news to your children, but for parents, the start of the school year can be a much-anticipated relief.

There’s more good news, for parents and pupils with the start of this school year. The school day is getting a whole lot healthier.

New standards for school meals will ensure students are offered the opportunity to eat right and the right amount. They are the most recent addition to the Hunger and Food Act, originally implemented in 2010, and were established as a response to more than 250,000 public comments on the original act.

What all that means for our kids is more nutritious food on their trays and a better shot at learning in the classroom.

Research shows that kids who have a healthy diet and get regular physical activity are more likely to perform well academically. Eating well may also play a role in helping kids with greater concentration, better attendance, better classroom behavior, better self-esteem and lower obesity rates.

The new meal requirements mark the first major changes in school meals in more than a decade. They include an offering of both fruits and vegetables every day; substantially more whole grain-rich foods; only fat-free or low-fat milk; calories based on the age of the children being served to ensure proper portion size; and increased focus on reducing sodium.

The United States Department of Agriculture is providing additional funds to schools which meet the new healthy meal standards, along with nutrition education resources

As much as our schools are doing to help our children grow up healthy, the rest of us have an even bigger role in the process. For these changes to be successful, parents, school staff and members of the community need to get involved in inspiring and encouraging students to eat healthy both at school and at home. Eat lunch with your children at school, review the school menu with your children, try new foods and home that are on the school menu, and convey the importance of healthy eating to children.

Activate Allen County is currently meeting with school officials to see how we can assist them in developing quality wellness and nutrition policies based on national standards. We have tools available on our site for parents, teachers and school administrators to promote well-being in the school environment. And we can help schools in important ways, such as assisting them with applications and grants for additional funding; helping to develop and maintain wellness committees to monitor challenges and solutions for healthy living; and helping to engage parents. To see the new standards, visit www.fns.usda.gov/healthierschoolday. Or, to find out ways you can work with your local school to create a healthier environment, go to www.activateallencounty.com for an array of tools and tips for making changes in your life, your school and your community.

Activate Allen County is made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health tips courtesy of Activate Allen County will appear in this space every Monday.

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