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Keep kids active and healthy

School is back in session, everyone is back in their routine and it’s time to keep them active and healthy.  While it starts at home, there are several state and national programs trying to help keep kids healthy with good eating habits and exercise habits. October is Farm to School Month, and this month also marks Walk to School Day.  Farm to School refers to schools serving local, farm-fresh foods ranging from fruits and veggies to honey and meat.  As explained in our front page story, the program fostering experiential food education for children is being implemented in Park Rapids schools for the first time this year.  

The Minnesota-grown fresh veggies were appearing on the salad bar until the end of September. Squash, the last of the harvest, may be added to the menu.  Winter possibilities for locally produced food are honey, maple syrup, wild rice and beans. By April and May, spinach and lettuce will be added to the menu – as will nutrition information for kids to chew.  We know that schools have been working to bring healthier options to our kids, and more farm-fresh options would be even better.  According to the Center for Rural Affairs, the more local foods we serve our kids, the better. We agree.  

One-third of U.S. children are obese or overweight, and only 2 percent of children get the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables each day. Farm to School programs increase students’ daily fruit and vegetable consumption significantly.  Schools incorporate curriculums that help students learn about nutrition, agriculture, science, math and the path that food takes from the farm to the table. In area schools, for example, the kids get to also experience firsthand by attending Ag in the Classroom, where farmers bring their animals and talk about the process.  

Park Rapids Area Schools continues to promote healthy choices and in November will partner with the University of Minnesota Extension Office to remind kids to “Eat Well – Keep Moving.” Classes will be offered in Park Rapids and Nevis.  

Many communities also participate in things like walk to school day, another option to promote healthy living. This event emphasizes the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and concern for the environment. The events also build connections between families, schools and the broader community.  Like we said, healthy habits start at home. Kids can be taught all you want about making healthy choices — and that can go for a full range of decisions, not just food and exercise — but if mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, whomever aren’t practicing and encouraging these decisions at home, how is a kid to put these habits to good use. Help them out.