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Schools' efforts with nutrition to be praised

December 06, 2011

Last December, President Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which authorizes funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs, and increases access to healthy food for low-income children.

The legislation, which includes $4.5 billion in new funding for these programs over 10 years, represents a major step forward in our nation’s effort to provide all children with healthy food in schools, where more than 31 million children receive meals through school lunch programs.

With one-third of children in the United States considered overweight or obese, offering them more healthful and more nutritious food options — as well as educating them about making healthy food choices — has never been more important.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed menu changes to school lunches starting with the 2012-13 school year, but Congress already has suggested some modifications.

Jeff Proulx, supervisor of food and nutrition services for Washington County Public Schools, said last week that some lawmakers are concerned the USDA’s proposals are too stringent and the associated costs for local school systems would be too detrimental. Proulx said he expects to receive guidance pertaining to more healthful school lunches for the next school year from the USDA before Christmas.

But Washington County Public Schools isn’t waiting. In fact, lunches for county students already include more healthful grains and milks than they did in the last school year. The switch was an easy one, so the school system moved forward, Proulx said.

Since July 1, the school system hasn’t offered any white breads or rolls in cafeterias, Proulx said. Instead, breads and rolls are whole wheat or whole grain.

Flavored milk was changed from 1 percent to fat-free, Proulx said. Regular milk was already fat-free.

We applaud the school system for its forward thinking on this matter and for its decision to take steps quickly in the name of children’s health. Doing something when it is required is one thing, but doing it before it is mandated — because it’s in the best interest of those you serve — is worthy of praise.

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