By DAVID GREEN
What’s this– another unfunded federal mandate to place onto school districts across the country? True, that describes the new school wellness policy provision of the federal Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, but not every order coming out of Washington is bad. A safe food supply, clean water, highway systems, etc.—perhaps it’s time to add “healthier children” to the list of federal regulations that serve the country well.
Every school district that participates in the federal school meals program must have a wellness policy in place for the next school year. If nothing more, the new rule forces districts to take a closer look at school nutrition and the physical activity of children.
Committees established in each district must take a look at goals for nutrition education, goals for physical activity, nutritional guidelines for all foods available at school and goals for other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness.
Morenci schools are ahead of the pack in some ways. Visitors to schools often express shock at the presence of soft drink vending machines inside school buildings. Morenci’s machines are now placed outside the school and are shut off when classes are in session.
Committee members will take a look at recess, cafeteria food, vending machines, gym class and other areas to think about whether improvements are in order.
One commendable facet of the program is the lack of a federal order telling districts what to do. Instead, a local committee of parents, students and school staff comes up with its own recommendations.
The value of the new regulations depends on what each district makes of it—whether it’s a quick glance and a rubber stamp approval of the status quo, or a more thoughtful look at the school day. We urge committee members to choose the latter approach and take advantage of the opportunity to help improve the health of area children. Much is said about the lack of physical activity and the incidence of childhood obesity. Take a close look and see where the community stands.– Jan. 11, 2006