Teach kids how foods affect them
How can we teach young people what fast foods do to their bodies?
Get on your local school wellness committee! If they don’t have one, federal law requires them to have one (see below). Ask them to start one.
Use health class to teach nutrition: Every school is required to have health class, but as of winter 2014, there was no required curriculum. What better subject matter than
Use health class to find creative ways to encourage healthy lifestyles: At Winfield High School, students produced a musical video about healthy eating and put it on YouTube. (Watch it below. It’s great.)
Show them firsthand: At Charleston’s Mary Snow West Side Elementary, fifth-graders gaped as the school nurse showed them how much sugar is in a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew.
Does your school health class alert kids to the fact that food marketing often makes them crave foods that are bad for their bodies? Are they learning about the impact of fat, sugar, etc. on energy level, performance, and obesity?
One in five West Virginia eleven-year-olds has high blood pressure, according to 2012 WVU measurements. One in four have abnormal cholesterol. One in three is obese. About one in six kindergartners arrives at school already obese.
Diet and exercise have a lot to do with that. Under WV law, each school can now choose how they teach health. There are goals, but no curriculum: a destination, but no roadmap. Some schools do a lot. Some do almost nothing.
The state Office of Child Nutrtition can make school food more nutritious, said state nutrition director Kristi Blower, “but we won’t really succeed until students know how to make good choices on their own. And nobody has authority to oversee that part of the curriculum.”
Nobody knows how many schools actually meet the state nutrition goals. “If they’d make nutrition part of the annual testing, the kids would be learning it!” said Rick Goff, director of the Office of Child Nutrition.
How can parents help schools teach kids about nutrition?
Be familiar with the state school board’s policies on nutrition and wellness in schools:
- Get a copy of your school’s wellness policy. Can it be improved? Argue for a policy of using health class to teach nutrition and self-care. http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/local-school-wellness-policy
- If there is no wellness committee, talk with other parents about organizing one. http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/news-content/starting-a-school-health-amp-wellness-co
- Organize events that say wellness is fun: http://www.realmomnutrition.com/2012/09/26/school-wellness-in-action-programs-that-rock-part-2/
- Here are some model school wellness policies.
- Get familiar with the argument for the need for a wellness council. Watch this video of a TED talk by Jamie Oliver, focusing on Huntington. It will really make you think. http://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver.html
Collect examples of good programs your school could draw from:
- The Centers for Disease Control offer you research-tested ideas.
- The US Department of Agriculture offers a list of programs that help kids understand how to make good food choices. Many satisfy instructional goals of the WV DOE, including workshops on reading food labels and a program called “Media Smart” on the way media advertising makes kids want certain foods and activities. http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/professional-and-career-resources/nutrition-education/curricula-and-lesson-plans.
- Discovering the Food System. An experimental learning program (ages 12-18) from Cornell http://www.discoverfoodsys.cornell.edu/
- Kidz Bite Back: A program created by a state native that helps kids see how food advertising manipulates them. This program is starting in WV schools. http://www.kidzbiteback.com.
- Figuring out food labels:
Learning about food while growing food:
- Early Education thru growing food. Videos from the WV Farm and Food Coalition http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7WRausrUSs
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR8qQm1mJoI Nutrition Education thru Farm to School: WV Farm and Food Coalition.
- Fuel up to play 60 : Some school systems have adopted this program as their county wellness program. It involves students in planning the school’s yearlong wellness activities and offers schools grants up to $4,000 apiece.
- Let’s Go!, home of the successful 5-2-1-0 program. http://www.letsgo.org
- Early Sprouts: classroom gardening experiments for young kids: http://www.earlysprouts.org
- Color Me Healthy. Childcare program involves games, stories, music. http://centertrt.org/?p=intervention&id=1095
- Kids Eat Right has minigrants for members: http://www.eatrightfoundation.org/Foundation/ Kids Eat Right is a five-year campaign of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. http://www.eatrightpro.org
- Also see these Try This pages: Build a high tunnel greenhouse, Get kids gardening, Use snacks to introduce new foods, Encourage home gardening, Present healthy food attractively