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Author's note: As the mother of teen who was diagnosed with hypertension and high cholesterol at the age of 15, I strongly applaud the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition standards for schools. The standards, the first change in 15 years, will go far in stemming the tide of hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes seen in our youth, granting our children a fighting chance.

His morning starts at 5:45 am when the alarm rings. He jumps out of bed to prepare for his day.

Shower. √
Brush his teeth. √
Walk the dogs. √

He’s ready. He grabs his backpack and leaves by 7am.

He must now race to the train and endure the morning rush hour. Jamming his body into a train full of shoving, sweating, irate commuters, he rushes to arrive at his destination.

High School.

As he races onto school grounds, he grabs a croissant and a Gatorade from the vending machine. By lunchtime, he’s famished. He devours his school lunch, a pizza and brownie. Still hungry, he heads to the vending machines to grab something to tide him over. The bell rings. He completes the last 2 classes of the day and heads to his after-school clubs.

It’s been a long day, almost 10 hours, he’s ready to leave. He heads to the vending machines to grab another snack. He savors it as he walks toward the train station. He can’t wait till he gets home. He knows dinner will be served in a few hours and he has a ton of work to do beforehand.

HS Seniors breakfast | Latina On a Mission

This is the scene many High School students face on a daily basis.

They eat two of their three meals, breakfast and lunch, on school grounds. They also grab snacks from vending machines to tide them over between meals. Full of empty calories, with minimal to nil nutritional value, their brains and bodies are not receiving the supplements needed to focus and excel. The damage from empty calories has also taken a toll on their bodies. Obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes have risen. Today 33.6% of teenagers, between 12 to 19, are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher for Latinos ( 38.6% for girls and 39.6% for boys) and African Americans (41.3% for girls and 36.9% for boys).

As a mom, this concerns me. If my children are only eating one out of three meals at home, I want to ensure that the meals they eat outside my home are not full of empty calories. This means that schools and parents must work in tandem.

Schools must do their part and offer my children, and yours, healthier options.

Based on the photos submitted to’ Fed Up, our children deserve better. Chicken nuggets, pizza, and tater tots are not healthy meal options. Chips, brownies, and cupcakes are not healthy snack options.

Thankfully, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition standards for the schools are being revamped. They’re the first update to nutrition standards for school meals in 15 years. The changes started in the School Year 2012-2013 and will be phased in over a 3 year period. The cost, an additional 6 cents a meal, is minimal; however, the benefits are worth so much more.

Changes include:

  • Offering students fruits and vegetables every day of the week
  • Increasing the amount of whole grain-rich foods offered
  • Reducing saturated fat, trans-fat and sodium
  • Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk

These changes will benefit our children immensely. It will give them the nutrients they need to make it through their long day, so that they can excel.

Our children deserve a fighting chance. Eating well gives them that fighting chance. And I for one believe my children, and yours, are worth fighting for. Don’t you?

This post originally appeared on Migdalia Rivera's blog, Latina On a Mission.

This post is part of the National School Lunch Week with Healthy Food! A MomsRising Blog Carnival. Take a moment to read and comment on these thoughtful blogs, then tell us your story. Our stories are powerful and are what led administrators to set these rules in place.

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