As parents, we work hard to put balanced meals on the table, give our kids healthy snacks and establish healthy lifestyle habits. As we start the new school year, it is important to make sure that these healthy eating habits are also supported at school — the place where our kids spend the most time outside of the home. 

Meeting nutrient needs

Schools meals and snacks are an important source of the nutrients necessary for students to grow properly and perform well academically. For many students participating in school breakfast and lunch programs, these meals provide up to 50 percent of their daily nutrient needs. And, like our homes, schools are where children learn and reinforce health behaviors that they will carry into adulthood.

It is essential that the behaviors promoted in schools — such as physical activity and healthy eating — are positive, healthy behaviors. It is critical that students receive nutritious foods, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk and lean proteins. Students cannot learn without adequate nutrition.

Overcoming barriers to health

Schools meals and snacks are an important source of the nutrients necessary for students to grow properly and perform well academically.”

Although many schools are successfully delivering healthful foods, some schools face challenges that create barriers to serving students healthy and appealing meals and snacks. Schools may encounter difficulties meeting school nutrition staff training needs, funding kitchen equipment needs, competing with less healthy snack foods and finding products that satisfy nutrition standards and students’ tastes. Fortunately, most of these issues can be overcome if school communities work collaboratively to address them with simple changes, which can make large, long-term improvements.

Getting parents involved

Parents play an important role in helping to provide solutions and bringing together teachers, school leaders, staff, other families and community partners to improve student nutrition. Parents can be the driving force behind everything from building school gardens to crafting healthy school celebration policies to supporting and expanding healthy meals and snacks. These efforts make a difference for the well-being and long-term success of all children. 

Healthy habits are critical to children’s academic, emotional and physical growth. As the new school year gets underway, we encourage parents to partner with teachers, school leaders and school nutrition teams to support healthy meals and snacks and create an environment that promotes healthy behaviors — at school and at home.

Here’s to a healthy school year!