Parents - Keep Your Children SAFE in School With Dairy Council of California's Back-to-School Checklist for Healthy School Environments

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 General News
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SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 14 Each year, children spend over1,000 hours and eat 180 meals at school, making it an important part of theirdevelopment. In the school setting, a healthy, SAFE environment includesparent Support, physical Activity, nourishing Food and nutrition Education(SAFE). Just in time for back-to-school, Dairy Council of California's SAFEchecklist helps parents evaluate and promote a healthy school environment fortheir children.

"When healthy foods and physical activity are available and encouraged inmultiple settings, children receive a consistent message and are more likelyto develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime," said Andrea Garen, M.A.,R.D., with Dairy Council of California. "Parents already control what goes onin the home, but they also have a voice in what is available in the schoolcafeteria and the classroom. The SAFE checklist is a tool that can helpparents start a positive dialogue with school professionals that supportsstudents in making healthy food choices in and out of school."

A healthy lifestyle includes eating from all five of the food groupsaccording to USDA's MyPyramid food guidance system and making physicalactivity part of daily life. Nutrient-rich food choices like low-fat orfat-free milk, whole grains, colorful fruits and vegetables and lean meatsprovide essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein andvitamins A, B-12, C and D that are needed for healthy growth and development.Regular physical activity helps children build strong bones and maintain ahealthy weight. Excluding entire food groups or avoiding regular exercise canhave serious consequences, such as increasing the risk of bone fractures,obesity and other chronic diseases.

"Creating a healthy school environment is a team effort that involves theteachers, administrators, students, school food-service personnel andparents," said Garen. "Back-to-school is a great time for parents to becomeinvolved, as many districts have already started to implement school wellnesspolicies with goals for nutrition education, physical activity and otherstudent wellness activities."

The SAFE checklist, available at Meals Matter (www.mealsmatter.org), afree meal-planning and nutrition website provided by Dairy Council ofCalifornia, includes questions and a call to action that gets parents engagedin improving the school environment. Parents should use the SAFE schoolchecklist as a guide to fostering a healthy school environment that includesthese key components. Sample questions include:

In addition to the new SAFE checklist for a healthy school environment,the Meals Matter website at http://www.mealsmatter.org has a variety ofinteractive meal-planning tools that make healthy eating easier. A timelyback-to-school section features tips on packing a healthy lunch box, ideas forafter-school snacks and a variety of articles, including ones addressing theimportant link between a healthy breakfast and optimal classroom performance.

About Dairy Council of California

Dairy Council of California develops nutrition education programs designedto be personally relevant to each user. Making healthy food choices from allfood groups and including daily physical activity are the foundation forlifelong health and wellness. Healthy Eating Made Easier.(R)-- Is nutrition education provided in the classroom? Does it teach children the skills they need to adopt healthy eating behaviors? Dairy Council of California, as well as other state and private organizations, offers age-appropriate curriculums that equip children to make healthy food and activity decisions. -- Does the school have a lunch and/or breakfast program for all students? -- Do elementary school students have at least 20 minutes for recess each day? -- How can I get involved in the school's local wellness policy?

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