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An online collection of education, income and health news by and for United Ways and their community partners
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Parents' Role in School Lunch

Parents' Role in School Lunch                                                                                         By Learning First Alliance on October 25, 2012 10:30 AM  

By Betsy Landers, President of the National PTA

 

It's a question parents know well: "How was school today?" This year, parents need to ask another question: "How was lunch today?" My hope is that students give an enthusiastic thumbs up, telling a story of a delicious plate full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. But let's be honest: children probably won't say that. Not yet at least.

 

As I'm sure we've all heard by now, school lunches are different this year.  As part of a law that passed in 2010, schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (101,000 schools nationwide) will be serving meals with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk, and portion sizes appropriate for their age groups.  Why?  There's a laundry list of reasons, but my favorite is that our kids deserve the best, and it is our responsibility as parents and educators to ensure the food they put in their bodies in school leaves them ready to learn and on a path to a healthy life.

 

It is critical to create healthy eating habits in children now to help prevent projections that half of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030 unless Americans change their ways, according to a new report released this month by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Many other studies have consistently shown that obesity is associated with poor levels of academic achievement. Fighting obesity is not just a health issue; it's integral to the academic success of our nation's children.

 

The reality nationwide is that one-third of our kids are overweight and obese. You've heard that statistic before and you may be thinking right now, "But what about those kids that play sports and need more food!"  These new school nutrition standards were not a result of the U.S. Department of Agriculture pulling meal components out of the sky.  They are based on the 2010 Nutrition Guidelines for Americans and recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, based on the most updated knowledge of the nutrition needs for the average child in their respective age range.  What's more, for many high school students, calorie levels are similar to previous years; the meals just look less like fast food and more like a balanced meal. That means students may find steamed squash on their plates where there once were tater tots, and chicken nuggets that are baked with whole grain bread crumbs.

 

An upgrade through most kids' eyes? Probably not! But that's where parents and adults come in. As parents it is our role to make sure our kids get what they need and not what they think they need.  As kids transition to healthier options this year, we must make sure that we are sending a positive message that these updates are what is best for them — physically and even academically. Parents should talk to children about how strong these new meals will make them and how healthy bodies lead to better academic performance.  Parents can bring children along to the grocery store and ask them to pick out the fruits or vegetables that they have tried at school to reinforce healthy habits at home.

 

One of the criticisms of the new meals is that they are not meeting the needs of student-athletes.  That's a real concern for some students. What can parents do? Most schools have supplementary sides available in the cafeteria that students can purchase.  Some schools may even be able to offer extra fruits and vegetables at no cost to students. To ensure all these options are healthy, parents should talk to the school food service director, administrators and coaches on the options for student-athletes.

 

Parents can always send additional foods from home for student-athletes to consume during lunch or before practice.  Parents must remember that the new school meals are the baseline and designed to meet the average student's needs.  For children with special dietary needs, parents have to be proactive — working with their children and the school to meet their child's needs, while still respecting the integrity of the program. That program is meeting the needs of most children.

As parents we know that any time there are changes to anything, there are going to be bumps in the road. For too many years, we let many of our children eat foods in school that were too high in sodium, fat and calories for their age ranges, and too low in the nutrients that their growing bodies need. I'd ask again that parents consider asking their children how lunch was when they come home from school this week.  Regardless of their answer, parents should shed positive light on the exciting changes that are going on in the lunchroom.  Because their children are worth it!

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6 Ways to Advocate Health and Wellness for Toddlers | United Way

6 Ways to Advocate Health and Wellness for Toddlers | United Way | United Way | Scoop.it
Children depend on adults. Here are six ways parents can be involved when it comes to health and wellness at daycare in school.
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New Haven launches city-wide Parents University

Over the weekend, New Haven educated a new class of parents with the launch of the city’s latest school reform initiative ­— Parent University.

 

 

Parents University opens

By Monica Disare

Staff Reporter

Monday, November 5, 2012

 

Over the weekend, New Haven educated an inaugural class of parents with the launch of the city’s latest school reform initiative ­— Parent University.

 

Designed to teach parents how to help their children succeed in school, Parent University offers workshops and educational resources for parents of New Haven public school children. On Saturday, Gateway Community College hosted the program’s first event, which included more than 35 classes ranging from college preparation to child development. Event coordinators said they were pleased with the program’s turnout, which drew approximately 300 registered attendees. Organizers added that only standing room was available for some of the most popular classes. Parent University is expected to continue throughout the year, hosting smaller functions in local neighborhoods and another city-wide event in the spring.

 

“Parents are our first and most important teachers. Parent engagement is vital to the success of our students and for New Haven School Change,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. “Today’s Parent University is part of what will be a broad and sustained effort to engage parents and to provide all families the tools and support they need to help their children succeed.”

 

Organizers said Parent University workshops were designed to help parents improve their own lives and the lives of their children. Classes focusing on students included, “How to Read with Your Child,” “Cyber Bullying and Social Networking” and “Success in Science,” while classes designated for parental improvement included “Parent Success Plan” and “Employment Marketing Profile.”

Susan Weisselberg, chief of Wraparound Services, which provides social and emotional counseling for students enrolled in New Haven’s public school system, said the parental evaluations collected at the end of workshops were “very positive”.

 

“People are very energized and excited by the event, which makes it very fulfilling,” Weisselberg said.  Abbe Smith, director of communications for New Haven public schools, said many of the most popular classes were ones that addressed child development and college planning. During “College Planning 101,” for example, parents learned how to apply for financial aid. Lisa Pressey, the parent of a New Haven eighth-grader, said she attended Parent University to learn about the New Haven Promise scholarship. She called Promise “empowering” and said Parent University exceeded her expectations.

 

The class titled “Addressing the Needs of Urban Boys” garnered a lively discussion about the challenges of raising boys in the city. Brett Rayford, director of adolescent and juvenile services for the Department of Children and Families, spoke about how to help boys navigate career paths, deal with the loss of a father and build interest in education.

 

While workshops covered a broad spectrum of topics, parents attending the event often questioned how to apply class strategies to their own lives. One parent raised her hand and said it was hard to get urban boys interested in education because boys who do well in school are ridiculed as “talking white” or “acting white.” Rayford talked about solutions to the problem. He suggested a “rite of passage” for boys or career interest tests to help students think about healthy careers early on in their education.

 

“It’s been there since I was a boy,” Rayford responded. “We devalue those who are focused on academics. It is not cool to be smart, and we’ve got to change that.”

 

He added after listening to the first session of “Addressing the Needs of Urban Boys,” a group of parents discussed forming a group to try to mitigate the problem. Pressey said she hopes that group comes together and that such a committee could include parents, teachers, administrators and students.

 

“The whole community needs to be involved,” Pressey said. “It affects everybody.”

 

Carla Chappel, the parent of a local eighth-grader, said she thought the class on urban boys’ development was valuable, but she had reservations about the first class she attended, which discussed how parents can communicate with their school. She said that while the administrator presenting at Parent University seemed to have a good system in place for parent communication, she is concerned that not all administrators have equally effective systems.

 

New Haven public school representatives said they hope to have workshops for parents throughout the year at local venues including libraries and schools. In the spring, they said they plan to have another city-wide Parent University at a setting similar to Gateway Community College.

 

Parent University provided child care services during the weekend event for children ages 3 to 12 at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School.

 

 

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Parents share strategies for inspiring children to love books

Parents share strategies for inspiring children to love books | United Way | Scoop.it
When it comes to raising readers, you know the drill: Start young, share books aloud, visit the library, and be a good role model. But what if you've toed that line and your child still hasn't caught the spark?
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