Let's Build a School Environment That Will Better Support Learning and Our Children's Health

08/29/2016 04:58 pm ET Updated Aug 30, 2017

As a Mom, I can tell you I'm pretty stoked to have my son go back to school. I'm sure I've grown a few gray hairs since summer began! Trying to juggle childcare, summer camp, and bored kids is an endless struggle.

My son, on the other hand, isn't too pleased about having to get up at the crack of dawn. I can't blame him. He leaves at 6:50 a.m. and returns home about twelve hours later on most days thanks to sports and other extracurricular activities. It's a long day, made even longer when he can't fuel up properly. He needs healthy school meals, as well as healthy vending machine snacks, that will keep him going throughout his school day and after-school activities.

Thankfully, schools are offering healthier meals, with more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as meals and snacks with less salt and sugar, and no trans-fats. Can they do better? Sure! And local school wellness policies can help.

Knowledge is Power!

The local wellness policy guides a school district's efforts in supporting healthy eating, physical activity, and overall child well-being. It gives parents important information, such as how their school district is doing in providing students with healthier school foods.

Providing parents with this information creates trust. Transparency is key to ensuring parents, schools and the community can work together to better support one another as they work towards the same common goal: healthier children.

To learn more about your school's local wellness policy, talk to your child (ren)'s school principal. You can also call your school district and ask to speak with the person who oversees the policy's implementation and evaluation.

It's your right as a parent to have access to the school's wellness policy of your local school and district. Under the law, they can't deny you this information so ask for it. Remember, knowledge is power! Use it. Join the school wellness committee and play a direct role in writing and implementing the policies in your local district and school. It will change children's lives!

Why now?

I often hear this question from other parents: Why now?

The answer is simple. Our children's health is at stake!

More than one in three children in the US are overweight or obese, and thus at risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer later in life. Because children spend most of their waking hours and eat up to half of their daily calories at school, schools play a crucial role in building lifelong healthy nutrition and physical activity habits.

Local wellness policies work best when parents, teachers, and community members come together and hold schools accountable for implementing the policies. In order to do this, school officials must make their local wellness policy readily available and transparent to members of the community.

As parents, we have the opportunity, and responsibility, to ensure that schools feed our children's minds and their bodies!

The ten to twelve hours a day many kids can spend at school needs to be as healthy as possible. Making sure that their school's wellness policy is in alignment with updated nutrition standards for school meals and snacks, provides nutrition education, is free of unhealthy food and beverages marketing, offers physical activity and physical education, will give our children every opportunity possible to succeed in life, now and in the future.

Together, we can build on the progress our local school districts have already made and improve the school environment to better support learning and our children's health.

Join the Good Food Force Volunteers and Bloggers to connect with Moms (like me!) who are advocating for healthy foods for our children, families and communities by clicking HERE.