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New wellness policy will benefit Buffalo students

With all the funding issues that have surrounded the Buffalo Public Schools lately, it's easy to forget that on a daily basis, good things are happening within our schools and through the Board of Education -- things that enhance life and learning for our students. One such item is the recent Buffalo Board of Education Wellness Policy change, passed unanimously by the board on April 25, that will enhance learning, life and lifestyle for our students.

Changes to the wellness policy are the first in decades. They establish high standards for child nutrition and physical activity that will have a lasting effect on the district's schoolchildren for years to come. The board has instituted important changes in what our students eat, how they exercise and how they learn to live healthier lives.

Children across the nation face increasing health risks that can affect their health and wellness, academic performance and, ultimately, their quality of life and life span. First lady Michelle Obama has created initiatives through the Let's Move program and the adoption of healthy eating guidelines in order to combat childhood obesity and teach lifelong healthy habits.

Believing that these national standards are highly important in an urban district such as ours, the wellness policy we crafted with professional guidance helps to establish an environment in which students can learn to make healthy choices toward their own well-being. In addition to the nutritional goals highlighted below, the district will add curriculum changes to foster these healthy choices and will create opportunities, support and encouragement for all students in grades prekindergarten to 12 to be physically active for at least 60 minutes on a daily basis.

The benefit of a healthy body in conjunction to learning new curriculum and performing well in class and on tests is immeasurable, but basic wisdom says that a healthier student is more receptive to overall learning. To paraphrase the first lady, promoting this type of wellness is practical, affordable and based in real-life recommendations that are easily adoptable.

Highlights of the policy include:

* Changes to vegetable and fruit offerings to include more servings per week, more variety and more freshofferings.

* Every meal to include 100 percent whole grain breads.

* Total food sugar contents under 35 percent per serving.

* Lowered sodium levels for meals.

* Calories from total fat at or below 35 percent per serving.

* Only 1 percent and fat-free flavored or unflavored milk served.

* Sold snacks will be limited to one purchase daily, per student, in all grades.

I am proud to be a part of changes that will allow the children of the Buffalo Public Schools access to healthful foods and opportunities to be physically active in order to grow, learn and thrive.

Jason M. McCarthy represents the Buffalo Board of Education's North District.