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Like many parents, I’m excited that the 2012-2013 school-year has begun—the kids may already be grumbling about homework, but we parents know that while summertime can be good fun for the family, it can also be exhausting. I’m even more excited that my kids will have access healthier and more nutritious foods at school this year, as I know the facts about childhood obesity.

Since the time I attended elementary school in Washington, DC, rates of childhood obesity have more than quadrupled in children and more than tripled in adolescents. This fact puts our kids at risk for a host of diseases and our economy on the hook for higher health care costs. I know school is where many kids get up to half of their calories during the day. I also know that when schools provide unhealthy foods and snacks, kids eat less of their lunch, consume more fats and fewer nutrients, and gain weight. So to me it’s a no-brainer that schools should provide healthier meals.

Each day I see or hear news of schools that are improving meals--getting rid of deep fryers in the kitchen and junk food in the vending machines; engaging local farms; making more fruits and vegetables available; changing menus in exciting ways—and with every account I smile a little wider knowing that many more kids will have access to healthy, nutritious foods and beverages during the school day.

These are important changes, and we need to be sure to take notice and support them. Dads, we can stand up for our kids by: reading up on the USDA’s Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and understanding what’s changing; finding out what our kids’ schools are doing to implement those changes; and letting schools know how excited we are about the healthy changes we’re seeing. For more ideas for getting involved, check out the USDA’s toolkit. And don’t forget to share your storywith MomsRising!

With our help the USDA will transform school food and promote better nutrition and reduce obesity. Now that’s homework we can all get behind!

Dr. Dwayne C. Proctor is the Childhood Obesity Team Director and Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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