With the new school year just around the corner, parents’ attention are turning to school clothes, supplies and lunches. Yes, school lunches.

In past years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had used our nation’s schools as a dumping ground for surplus meat and dairy commodities. Not surprisingly, one-third of children have become overweight or obese. Their early dietary flaws become lifelong addictions, raising their risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Gradually, the tide is turning. New guidelines mandated by President Barack Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, require doubling the servings of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, less sodium and fat and no meat for breakfast. A recent survey shows the guidelines are supported by 86 percent of Americans.

Sixty-four percent of U.S. school districts now offer vegetarian options. More than 120 schools, including the school districts of Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Oakland, Philadelphia and San Diego have implemented Meatless Monday. Some schools have dropped meat from their menu altogether.

As parents, we need to work with school cafeteria managers and our own children to encourage the availability and consumption of healthy, plant-based school foods. Entering “vegetarian options in schools” in a Web search provides lots of good resources.

Wes Muirland

Waterville

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Augusta and Waterville news

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