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Imagine planting a garden full of vegetables, fruits and fruit trees…in the backyard of your child’s school.

 

In Florida, school nurses spearheaded a project to do just this. Thanks to the support of school staff and community members, students have an opportunity to learn about nutrition, physical activity, math and science “hands on” – while planting gardens on their school grounds. Better yet, these students and their families get to enjoy access to fresh, healthy and, of course, delicious food.

 

As it turns out, getting children interested in and excited about healthy foods doesn’t have to be a challenge anymore. This fall, as students head back to school, there’s even more to look forward to. As a result of new nutrition standards

Photo credit: National Association of School Nurses

released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, schools will now be required to serve meals in the cafeteria that have more of all of the things we know children need the most like whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Healthy children learn better – which is one of the many reasons why school nurses take their role in promoting healthy lifestyles so seriously. Improving meal options available to students in the school cafeteria is a critical start to making the school day healthier. But it doesn’t have to stop there. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation (2010) provides important recommendations for creating healthy schools:

“Schools play a pivotal role in preventing obesity among children and teenagers. Each school day provides multiple opportunities for students to learn about health and practice healthy behaviors that affect weight, including physical activity and good nutrition. Well-designed school programs can promote physical activity and healthy eating, reduce the rate of overweight and obesity among children and teenagers, and improve academic achievement.”

 

The opportunities to improve students’ health outcomes are endless. School nurses often work with families to encourage schools to provide health education curriculum when children are young and in their most impressionable cognitive developmental stage. Families can also encourage little changes that make a big difference, like making sure their children have access to drinking water throughout the school day. It is crucial that schools provide daily physical activity options for students during and after school hours. Bike-to-school programs are another great way to motivate students to stay active (and have fun doing it). Maybe you can even build momentum in your local community to start a “plant a garden” or “build a greenhouse” project at your child’s school.

 

Ensuring our nation’s children have a healthy and successful future should be our top priority.  The good news is that there are a number of creative (and cost-effective) ways to make this vision a reality.

Angela Shubert is the Assistant Director of Government Affairs at the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). NASN is committed to ensuring children have a healthy and successful future, which includes promoting wellness and disease prevention to improve health outcomes for our nation’s children.

This post is part of the MomsRising "Making the School Day Healthier" Blog Carnival headlined by Top Chef Lorena Garcia."


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