By Anita Courtney
If you’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of junk food your children consume at school parties, you might be happy to know about the school wellness policy being proposed for all Fayette County Public Schools.
The SWAP (School Wellness Action) Team, led by the Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition, is advocating for the end of the use of food as a reward and for mandatory (at least 20 minutes) of recess every day for all elementary school children.
In addition, the group proposes at least half of the food served at school parties to meet Snack Smart nutrition guidelines.
(This article will focus on the party policy, but information about the other two policies is available at www.tweenslex.org.)
Does it matter what kids eat at a school party? Isn’t it just one cupcake?
Tracey Thomas, Program Manager for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, did the math and found that if each child had a cupcake to celebrate the birthdays of their classmates, it could add up to 10,000 calories a year.
That’s a lot of calories for a child, particularly in a sedentary environment.
A study done by Yale researchers found that adding healthy options to the party menu actually reduced the amount of calories kids ate.
At a school party with a typical menu of cake, fruit punch, ice cream and chips each student consumes as many as 455 calories, almost half the calories young children need in a day.
When fruit was added to the menu students consumed as much as 196 fewer calories.
And it’s not just a matter of calorie savings. It’s also about the “walking the talk” on healthy habits for our kids so they have a chance of growing up healthy.
Kids learn what they live. And what does a table laden with unhealthy food on a regular basis teach them?
One out of three Kentucky kids is overweight or obese, 70% already have a cardiovascular risk factor and one in three infants born in Kentucky today will develop diabetes.
Kentucky ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for overweight high school students. In addition, dental health problems are rampant in our state.
A mother who attended the September SWAP rally said her family had incurred expensive dental bills as result of getting so much sugar at school.
Some have raised concerns about whether parents and schools will be able to afford the higher cost and extra time to serve healthy food at school parties.
We have addressed those concerns in a handout called The Snack Table (http://tweenslex.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Heallthy-Snacks-for-School-Celebrations.pdf).
It includes a list of foods that have a “Price Smart” icon and are organized by snacks that are “no prep,” “low prep” and “more prep.
In order for a district-wide school wellness policy to be successful, it will take a cooperative effort among school administrators, teachers, parents and students.
If you think these policies are a good idea, please let your child’s principal, teacher and school board representative know.
(Find out who your representative is at http://www.fcps.net/administration/board-of-education/members ).
School wellness polices will be discussed at Monday Oct. 13, and Monday Oct. 27 School Board meetings.
A packed house will give a loud and clear message that creating healthy environments for Lexington students is a priority for many Lexington families.
Info: Michelle Castro at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tweeenslex.org.