Bringing the Promise of Healthy School Meals to More Children This Fall

The Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010 enabled the U.S Department of Agriculture to make historic changes to the meals served in our nation’s schools. Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks sold during the school day are now more nutritious than ever, with less fat and sodium and more whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. For many kids, the meals they get at school may be the only nutritious meals they receive that day—and when children receive proper nourishment, they are not only healthier, but they also have better school attendance and perform better academically. It’s not enough, though, to make the meals healthier—we must ensure that children have access to those healthier foods.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorized a program, known as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), that can help schools achieve their educational goals by ensuring that children in low-income communities have access to healthy meals at school so they are ready to learn. In this program, schools agree to offer breakfast and lunch for free to all students, and cover any costs that exceed the reimbursements from USDA. Designed to ease the burden of administering a high volume of applications for free and reduced price meals, CEP is a powerful tool to both increase child nutrition and reduce paperwork at the district, school, and household levels, which saves staff time and resources for cash-strapped school districts.

Full story on the Healthy Hungry-Free Kids Act at ed.gov

Here’s One Way to Wreck a Child’s Education: Take Away Recess

Recess is the only “subject” my 9-year-old will talk about.

I don’t even bother asking him how school is. He’s a good student. An excellent student. A veracious reader. I’m not telling you this to brag. I don’t have an “honor roll” sticker on the back of my car. I’m telling you this because my child will not answer any question about school positively.

The only thing he will talk about is recess. In recess, there is a hierarchy. There are kids who cheat. There are kids who can help him troubleshoot rainbow loom issues. There are kids who will challenge him to be a better basketball and soccer player. There is freedom. There’s downtime. There’s time to think outside of the desk he is chained to all day long.

I get so much detail about recess that it’s hard to believe it’s only 30 minutes of his day. But to him, it’s everything. It’s his world. Yet, according to a new article in The Atlantic, taking away recess has become “common practice among teachers trying to rein in unruly students.” Says The Atlantic:

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 77 percent of school principals reported taking away recess as a punishment, while a 2006 study found 81.5 percent of schools allowed students to be excluded from recess.

Full story of children’s recess at school at the Huffington Post

Childhood Obesity Month: Chartwells helps students get healthy

It has been suggested that the United States has a weight problem. While many walk around sporting a spare tire, unable to fit into their fall clothes, the biggest concern must lie with children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and food service companies around the country are trying to educate students to make better choices.

“We help students identify healthful meal choices through signage and activities … that take place in the cafeteria,” said Brian Reynolds, Chartwells foodservice director at Wilton Public Schools. “School meals are well balanced, convenient and remain a great value for busy families. Our programs are based on strong nutritional guidelines, principles and cooking techniques using fresh, local and seasonal fruits and vegetables that are appealing to children.”

Currently, Wilton High School is featuring local produce during its farm-to-chef week, which puts ingredients from both student-grown gardens and those in the community into recipes.

Full story of childhood obesity month at Wilton Bulletin

‘Fat Letters’ and the Childhood Obesity Debate (AUDIO)

Experts, parents split over schools’ role in weight screening

If their kids are frequently tardy, truant or failing to turn in homework, parents of U.S. schoolchildren expect to be notified. And in some districts, they might be contacted about yet another chronic problem:obesity.

The “fat letter” is the latest weapon in the war on childhood obesity, and it is raising hackles in some regions, and winning followers in others.

“Obesity is an epidemic in our country, and one that is compromising the health and life expectancy of our children. We must embrace any way possible to raise awareness of these concerns and to bring down the stigmas associated with obesity so that our children may grow to lead healthy adult lives,” said Michael Flaherty, a pediatric resident physician in the department of pediatrics at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.

About 17 percent of U.S. teens and children are obese — three times the number in 1980, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And one in three is considered overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese puts kids at risk of developing serious health problems, such as heart disease. Too much weight can also affect joints, breathing, sleep, mood and energy levels, doctors say.

Full story of child obesity debate at WebMD

Autism Risk May Be Raised for Children When Labor Induced

Boys born to mothers who needed their doctor to start or help along the birth may have a higher risk of autism, a study found.

Boys whose mothers had labors that were induced, which stimulates the uterus to bring on contractions, or augmented, which increases the strength, duration and frequency of contractions, had a 35 percent greater risk of autism then children whose mothers didn’t need those procedures to help the births, according to research in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study released yesterday is the largest to examine the potential link between birth procedures and autism and to find that males may be more affected than females, said Simon Gregory, the lead author. While induced labors help reduce deaths among mothers and babies, more studies are needed to better understand why these procedures may raise autism risk, he said.

“The study shows there is an elevated risk around augmentation and induction, however we haven’t found cause and effect,” Gregory, an associate professor of medicine and medical genetics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, said in a telephone interview. “The results don’t dictate there be any change in any clinical practices surrounding birth. The dangers to the mothers and the infants by not inducting or augmenting far outweigh the elevated risk for development of autism.”

Full story of autism risk raised when labor is induced at Bloomberg

Yoga for kids may help with physical and mental health

Yoga for Kids Helps Physical and Mental HealthMillions of people practice yoga as a way to stay fit or for relaxation. But could it be used as medication?

Nine-year-old Aaron Schaefer spent years battling debilitating migraines caused by stress. But since starting a yoga class, his headaches are gone.

“When I started taking [the class], it was like a cure from heaven,” Schaefer told Ivanhoe.

Researchers at Duke University are studying whether a program that combines yoga and other therapies can help children’s mental and physical health.

“It calms you down. It relaxes your body. It lowers your heart rate. It lowers your respiration and in general it reduces the effects of stress on your body,” Murali Doraiswamy, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Duke Medicine, told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Doraiswamy says these relaxation responses can help mild depression and sleep disorders. Yoga may also provide additional benefits for people with schizophrenia and ADHD when combined with standard drugs.

Full story of yoga for kids and mental health at WWSB My Suncoast

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Mom’s Depression Tied to Childhood Obesity

Mom's Depression Tied to Childhood ObesityIn low-income urban families, a mother’s depression is linked to childhood obesity and disengaged parenting.

“We know many mothers experience feelings of sadness and depression. Despite this awareness, many mothers really suffer in silence and don’t feel comfortable [talking to someone about their feelings],” said Dr. Rachel S. Gross, lead author of the study.

While most research shows a link between a mother’s feelings of depression and a child’s development and social health, “This was one of the first [studies] to look at younger children [and how depression] can impact the physical health of children,” she said.

Gross has spent most of her career working with low-income families in the Bronx in New York. There she has witnessed patients struggling with feelings of depression as well as children who are gaining weight more quickly than expected.

Full story of mom’s depression and childhood obesity at PsychCentral

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

What’s motivating child’s play?

Motivating Childrens PlayThe results of the Sydney Playground Project published online in the Preventive Medicine Journal show simple, low cost, additions to a playground can increase physical activity and decreases children’s sedentary behavior during recess times. However parental and teachers’ concerns for safety and being sued remain a concern.

Lead investigator Professor Anita Bundy from the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences says the trial may have helped reverse parents and teachers’ perception of what constitutes risky play activities by assisting them to understand what can motivate and encourage children to be physically active and socialize with their peers.

Twelve Australian primary schools participated in the project which simultaneously focused on the school children aged between five-to-seven years, their parents and their teachers.

Full story of motivating child’s play at Medical Xpress

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Autism And Pollution Study Links Autism With Prenatal Exposure To Traffic Pollution

Autism and Pollution Study LinkedBabies exposed to air pollution in the womb are more likely to have autism than those whose mothers spend pregnancy in clean air, according to a new study.

In the largest study of its kind, UCLA researchers compared levels of air pollutants, mostly related to vehicle traffic, during pregnancy gestation periods of 7,603 children with autism and 75,635 children without autism, born from 1995 to 2006 in Los Angeles. The study was published March 1 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Babies at the 75th percentile of exposure to toxins had 8 percent to 10 percent higher risk of autism than babies at the bottom 25th percentile, the study said. Ozone and fine particulates had the strongest association with autism.

Full story of autism and pollution at Huffington Post

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

DNA testing for adoptive children

DNA Testing for Adoptive ChildrenThe Red Thread welcomes guest writer Chris Baer.  An adoptive father curious about his son’s medical history and heritage, Baer sought out DNA testing. Here, he writes about why he did it and why he believes all adoptive parents should have their children tested. He also shares some of the major discoveries he made along the way.

Growing up as the youngest of the Baer family clan, I knew what to expect in becoming a Baer: a Roman nose, sharp wits, esoteric interests, and, if the genetic dice rolled badly, my grandfather’s terrifying bipolar disorder.

I also knew what it was to become a Lair, my mother’s family: patience, craftiness, good hair and bad teeth.

Growing up in the Baer Lair (as our mailbox announced) and inheriting an equal, random mix of genes from both sets of parental chromosomes, I had a pretty good idea of what to prepare for.

Full story of DNA testing for adoptive children at The Washington Times

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/