by Ginger Ellis
As a mom, my primary goal is to raise my children to be happy, healthy and successful citizens. I believe there is a direct correlation between food ingredients and physical exercise, and the effect it has on our abilities to function and learn.
I have seen the negative impact of junk food and inactivity on kids' learning abilities and feel that if more parents had the resources to take charge of what their kids are putting in their mouths each day and how much exercise they were getting, they would have healthier, smarter, happier kids.
My husband and I encourage healthy habits at home, but don't give much thought to what goes on where they spend the majority of their waking hours — at school.
At the beginning of the year, my fifth grader came home with excitement and announced she wanted to join the band. "When is practice?" I questioned.
The answer was during recess several times a week. Instead of going outside and being active for 20 minutes, the students could learn how to play an instrument. After much consideration, we chose to allow her to pursue her musical interest. However, on band days, I know I have to do a better job at home to make sure her activity level is higher.
My third grader is allergic to corn syrup. If you look at the ingredient list of nearly everything served in the cafeteria and for snacks at school, corn syrup is present. I make sure my son has appropriate snacks in the classroom for special occasions and that we pack his lunch each day so he's not eating things that will make his stomach hurt. Usually he is okay with this but just last week he came home with his head down and was very quiet.
When I asked him what was going on, he simply stated that sometimes he feels left out because he can't have fun and eat the treats everyone else is enjoying. It broke my heart.
So what's a mama to do in a world full of bad food and decreased emphasis on movement throughout the day? I know I need to learn more about what is going on for the seven hours my kids are at school each day. What are my kids being taught about the importance of moving around, making good food choices and alternate ways to celebrate special days without sugary sweets? What is my role in helping my kids (and others) choose healthier paths?
This is why I'm so excited about Team Up for Kansas Kids. The new effort from the Kansas Health Foundation recognizes the healthy habits my kids are exposed to at home and school are vital to lifelong success; and gives us parents the opportunity to be more present in our kids' schools to begin the conversation about nutrition, physical exercise and overall wellness.
Here are a few of my favorite tools and pages:
The resources page has great tips and tricks to address parents' role in school wellness, nutrition and physical activities. I found a few really great new ideas for encouraging healthy habits while exploring these resources!
The Wellness at Home tip sheet. This sheet outlines why continued wellness at home is important, and suggests how to make my home a healthier place for nutrition and physical exercise.
I am pledging to learn more and I know the Team Up for Kansas Kids site will help me in my endeavors. I challenge you to join me in researching, asking and becoming active. Explore the site and pledge your support as I have.
Did you know school districts are required by law to implement wellness policies? Although these laws call for nutrition, student wellness and physical activity education and programming, most policies lack a substantial call for action.