Healthier food in schools benefits our students

While some students may miss having french fries that are actually fried and not baked, we think the changes being made to school meals and snacks locally and nationwide are to be commended.

In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act went into effect, requiring more nutritious choices for school lunch and breakfast.

As of the current school year the government has raised the bar even more, putting into place Smart Snacks in School, which tackles snacks from vending machines and any other food students may have while at school.

Students still have the freedom to choose their food, which they can do by bringing their own lunch.

But by having better options-including more fruits and vegetables and less sugar-we’re sure to see some positive effects.

This may include a drop in childhood obesity or children who are more alert in class because they’ve received the nutrients they need. Students who try healthy food are also likely to develop a taste for it and choose it on their own.

Obesity is an epidemic throughout the nation but our state and county see rates even higher than the norm. Bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyles are being passed on from generation to generation. Now places of education are needed to be part of the solution.

There are still treats for children eating at school. The options are just healthier overall.

The only quibble we have with the newer standards are the caloric guidelines. A school lunch entree is to have no more than 350 calories, and for some students that may not be enough.

The American Heart Association recommends 1,200 calories day for those ages 4 to 8; 1,600 calories a day for those ages 9 to 13 and 1,800 calories a day for those 14 to 18. If those teens have three meals a day capping out at 350 calories each, that’s only 1,050 calories. That leaves a lot of snacking and sides to fill in the gaps.

All too often, the meals children receive at school are the only real meals they will get and even more often, they’re the only nutritious meals they may get. That low calorie count may not be enough for everyone.

Overall, though, we think these changes can only bring about good things. School administrators say they’re not concerned about losing vending machine profits, and the health benefits possible outweigh any complaints after fewer cookies being served.