09/11/2014 05:21 pm ET Updated Nov 11, 2014

Act Locally: Let Local School Districts Identify Healthy Meals Students Will Want to Eat

A new poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association concludes that a majority of parents agree with strong federal nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.

These parents are in favor of sound nutrition for their children. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) agrees with them. All school board members -- and nearly 40 percent are parents of school-age children -- understand the critical importance of student health.

That is why NSBA supports flexibility that would allow communities to feed their students healthy food that also reflects school districts' unique needs, resources, and circumstances. Using sound nutrition as a base and their communities as partners, districts can serve healthy food that students will eat -- not throw away and go home hungry.

Parents and others who are in favor of good nutrition for children (and really, who isn't?) would be aghast at the unintended consequences of the current federal regulations. Participation in school meals dropped by 1 million students in the first year new national standards were in effect. Further, it is estimated that $3.8 million in food is wasted daily -- good food ending up in landfills. Worse, some children are going hungry, because they dislike their cafeteria offerings, find portion sizes inadequate, or cannot afford to purchase additional food or bring it from home.

Communities have a right to decide what to feed their children, just as parents decide every day what to feed their families. Consider the results of a June 2014 Rasmussen poll that concluded, "Most Americans continue to believe it's not the federal government's job to decide what school kids eat." Only a quarter of the adults polled said the federal government should set nutrition standards. In contrast, more than half of respondents said those standards should be set locally.

We need temporary waivers and other measures to help struggling school districts successfully improve school meals. With flexibility, school districts can serve healthy foods that their students will eat.

Student health and well-being? Sound nutrition? To identify the best solutions, act locally - let's empower local school districts.