First lady Michelle Obama announces some new plans for healthier schools

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 25, 2014 

— Guidelines for local school wellness policies and a new website with healthy ideas for schools were released on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The guidelines include setting goals for nutrition education and physical activity. They also will ensure that foods and beverages marketed to children in schools are consistent with new standards. A press release on Tuesday from the Office of the First Lady says that ensuring that unhealthy food is not marketed to children is one of Michelle Obama's top priorities.

“The idea here is simple — our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” Michelle Obama said in the news release. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”

More information is on the USDA’s new “School Nutrition Environment and Wellness Resources” website.

The USDA also announced that it will expand a program that provides healthy free lunches and breakfasts to all students in more than 22,000 schools nationwide where most of the children are from low-income families. The program was piloted in Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

In the new system, these schools will not process meal applications for free and reduced-price meals, but will serve free meals to all students, eliminating any distinctions about who is eligible.

The USDA says the meal program will help as many as 9 million American children eat healthy meals at school. It reported that research shows that children who eat breakfast in the classroom perform 17 percent better on math tests and have fewer disciplinary problems.

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