Editorial to School Lunches

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New federal guidelines designed to get kids to eat more healthful meals have taken effect with the new school year. Targeting fat, sodium and calories, the rules aim to increase the fruits, vegetables and whole grains in school lunches. The effort was introduced by first lady Michelle Obama, who is also leading a national push to encourage more exercise.Parents may well be providing their children with nutritious meals at home, but a habit of cafeteria french fries and sweets can put a dent in the most rigorous regimen of good health.The new standards don’t represent a drastic departure from previous school menus; they just incorporate better options. French fries have not been banished, but now they’re baked and made of sweet potatoes. Sweets are still in evidence, but they are in the form of fruits. Kids can still have chocolate milk, but it must be non-fat or skim milk. The most obvious change is that a half cup of fruit or vegetables will be served with every lunch. If school districts don’t comply with the new mandates, they won’t be reimbursed by the federal government for their lunch program.The school lunch changes are a responsible response to what health experts call an epidemic.An estimated 23 million children and teens in the U.S. are obese or overweight, a statistic that health and medical experts consider an epidemic. That prevalence puts nearly a third of the country’s kids at early risk of a litany of diseases usually associated with adults with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke. In New Jersey, the most at-risk children may be in Trenton. Also, the rates are highest among Hispanic children.Most alarmingly, the largest differences between Trenton public school children and national estimates were seen among the youngest children 49 percent in Trenton were overweight or obese versus 21 percent nationally.It’s imperative those kids establish healthy habits.It’s all very well to outlaw jumbo servings of soda, as New...
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