The Free Press, Mankato, MN


July 15, 2013

Our View: Mankato schools doing well for students' wellness

Why it matters: Schools hold great influence over creating healthy, nutritious habits in kids.

It’s a time-honored tactic of parents and teachers: When kids perform successfully and behave well they are rewarded with a favorite — meaning sugary — snack.

That seemingly harmless reward is less harmless in these days of childhood obesity and lack of physical activity.

That’s why Mankato public schools, as part of its goal toward healthier kids, is now encouraging teachers to bypass food rewards for students. (It’s a step parents may want to take, as well — or at least make the food reward something healthy.)

It is just one small step in a comprehensive wellness program that school officials and parents have been implementing in recent years.

A wellness advisory group has outlined a detailed and ambitious plant for the coming school year, with eight areas of focus, including things such as more physical education and better nutrition.

Improving food offerings has probably been the biggest need in schools across the country that for too long relied on providing easy to prepare food they new kids would eat. Unfortunately too many of those foods fell into the breaded, sugary, fatty end of the food pyramid. Mankato has been steadily improving its lunchroom offerings and continues to taste test new and healthier foods.

Fortunately, the federal government has recently made sure all schools in the country take school nutrition more seriously by putting daily calorie limits on lunches and pressuring schools to get sugary soda and snacks out of vending machines in favor of healthier snacks.

But those involved in the wellness effort in Mankato understand that wellness isn’t just about being physically fit and eating well. That’s why the schools are also focusing on the emotional well being of students with psychological services and making sure students feel — and are — safe in and around their schools.

Considering that kids spend so much of their time in school and are so influenced by their teachers and peers, Mankato should be commended for keeping a focus on improved health and wellness of students.

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