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Teach kids how foods affect them

5. fat in chicken nuggets etc-3

“I think I’m going to cry,” East Bank Middle School seventh-grader Kaylee Hull said as the health teacher showed her how much fat is in six chicken nuggets.

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.


Nurse Janet Alio has fifth-graders’ attention at Charleston’s West Side Mary C. Snow School, as she measures out more than 50 teaspoons of sugar in a one-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Photo: Kate Long

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.  Parents can change that.



Winfield High School health teacher / coach Brittany Good took creative approaches to health class and nutrition education.  Her students got national recognition for this 2012 video.



How can parents help schools teach kids about nutrition?


    • Caption

      Some Fayette County Schools adopted Organwise, a healthy living program that emphasizes the way food affects the body. (Photo, Kate Long)

      At home: Make good nutrition fun and tasty. Real Mom Nutrition is a great blog by a dietician mom who is dedicated to that idea. Packed with great ideas!

    • At school:  Join your school wellness committee.  Be familiar with federal law that requires each county to have a wellness policy and a county wellness committee.

    Be familiar with the state school board’s policies on nutrition and wellness in schools:

  • Does your school have a wellness policy or council? Argue for a policy of using  health class to teach nutrition and self-care.
  • If there is no wellness committee, talk with other parents about organizing one.  You’ll find great material at the WV Parents Action for Wellness Web site.
  • 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.

Collect examples of good programs your school could draw from:          

Ruffner Elementary-5

Grade-schoolers at Ruffner Elementary in Charleston in a session about TV ads that try to sell them junk food. Their classmates had just put on a play as part of the Kidz Bite Back program. (photo, Kate Long)

Learning about food while growing food:


The Charleston Power’s mascot visiting grade-school classrooms to promote a message of healthy eating: 5 servings of vegetables or fruit, no more than 2 hours of screen time, an hour of physical activity, and no soda. Photo, courtesy The Power.


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