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EDITORIAL: Healthy choices need to be made at home first

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Thursday saw Congress sign a new childhood nutrition bill that will now be presented to President Obama to sign into law. You may have heard of the bill; it’s the same one First Lady Michelle Obama is backing in which new nutrition standards will be set for foods sold in schools. According to TheHill.com, the $4.5 million bill will also expand the eligibility of children in need to participate in school-meal programs and give schools a 6-cent increase to help cafeterias serve healthier meals.

The LA Times reports that another 115,000 children will be able to receive free or reduced-price lunches and after-school programs will be able to serve 29 million more meals to children.

The bill is a main part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign to combat childhood obesity and has seen support from both Democrats and Republicans in the House.

The standards set for the schools will not only have kitchens provide healthy food to students, but call for the removal of junk food and sugary beverages from vending machines and a la carte lines.

There is also hope the bill will encourage schools to purchase more produce from local farms.

Times are hard for many families in our country, and we feel the move to open the food programs to more children who might not receive healthy breakfasts or lunches is good.

Free and reduced-price lunches help many in our own communities and could help more families who have found themselves in tight spots during this time of economic troubles.

However, while we applaud efforts to encourage children to make healthy decisions by choosing foods that are better for them and exercising, we feel that it must be recognized that teaching children about good health cannot fall solely with the schools, which have often offered healthy choices to children.

Children are not only influenced and taught behavior at school, but at home as well. Healthier behavior is one we hope doesn’t start at schools, but at home with parents. We believe parents can take a page out of the books of schools and offer healthy snacks and drinks to their kids.

Instead of handing them a soft drink after school, offer them some juice or just water. Let them snack on fruits and vegetables instead of candy or chips.

Cutting back on visits to fast-food restaurants could help reinforce healthy decisions for children as well. We’re not saying to never go to McDonald’s again, but limiting visits to fast-food restaurants will help and also save money. It also provides families opportunities to cooks meals together, which offer parents more chances to teach and spend time with their children.

Offering vending machines with snacks and soft drinks might not be a good decision, but if we teach our children early the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, we could see them choosing to stay away from those unhealthy choices on their own.

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