Oh, kids. So fun and funny. But sometimes -- often! -- not easy. How many times has your child (or one you know) melted down over something like having the wrong color socks, taking a bath, getting hit by a falling leaf... You know what I mean. I think we can all agree: young kids aren't exactly rational creatures.
That doesn't mean we don't still try. Socks of the wrong color aren't a big deal. But taking a bath is! So is brushing their teeth. Tying shoes. Being nice to other kids. These are important life-skills. Non-negotiable. As parents, it's our role to help them learn these skills.
Schools have a role too. Our kids not only learn academic skills, they gain important life skills at school. As a parent, I see my kids' schools as partners in this vast and complicated process of raising healthy and happy humans.
This means kids in schools should have the opportunity to make healthy food choices. They should not be faced with a wall of high-fat, high-sodium junk every. Single. Day.
That's why I celebrated last year when the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated nutrition standards for school lunches for the first time in 15 years, ensuring that students eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and avoid sugary snacks and foods that are high in fat or sodium. The vast majority of schools (90 percent) are already meeting the standards and serving healthy choices to the 31 million students who eat school meals every day.
So, the recent pushback by some members of Congress to block healthy school meals has me baffled. Congress may literally weaken standards that could result in kids getting pizza and fries for lunch every day of the week! I can't make this stuff up! It's true, and it's shocking.
Right now, some members of Congress are moving to weaken these standards and take our kids back to pizza and french fries every day of the week. Specifically, the measures proposed would allow schools to:
- Exclude fruits and vegetables from meals
- Serve meals high in sodium and low in whole grains
- Sell foods full of sugar, fat and salt in snacks and a la carte lines without having to meet evidence-based nutrition standards
- Delay or even prevent the implementation this fall of the Smart Snacks standards, which apply to foods and beverages sold outside of meal programs
But schools have a role to play too. They should demonstrate and promote healthy behaviors - from not hitting other kids, to eating your veggies. On top of that, many kids eat up to half of their daily calories in schools. We can't afford to have schools go against what we, as parents, want for our kids. Our school is a partner; we should know that they have our kids' best interests at heart.
Even more objectionable are the the exaggerated claims that schools aren't able to meet healthy meal standards. In fact, over 90% of schools are already in compliance with the new nutritional standards. Claims that more food is being wasted as a result of the healthy meal standards have also been debunked.
Congress needs to remember that lots of things that are good aren't easy. Imagine what my family -- my community -- would be like if I just gave up on teaching my son to tie his shoes or to use the toilet. Come on! Instead of giving up on our kids, let's work together to address whatever challenges schools are facing.
Start by joining me in telling Congress to not give up on kids. http://action.momsrising.org/sign/Keep_School_Foods_Healthy/
Follow Karen Showalter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/karen_showalter