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.
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. 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?
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. The Parents 4 Wellness Network is a great resource for staying up-to-date on policy.
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. http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/local-school-wellness-policy
- 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. 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. https://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/school-day-just-got-healthier-parents
- And https://www.fns.usda.gov/core-nutrition/core-nutrition-messages
- The USDA’s “Media Smart Youth” clues kids in to the way media advertising makes kids want certain foods and activities. https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/materials/media-smart-youth
- Discovering the Food System. An experimental learning program (ages 12-18) from Cornell http://www.discoverfoodsys.cornell.edu/
- 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
- 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. Check out this WV Public Broadcasting article here.
- Figuring out food labels:
- PBS Kids has lots of Healthy Habits games. Type Healthy Food in the search for all the games geared toward healthy lifestyles.
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
- Nutrition Education thru Farm to School: WV Farm and Food Coalition.
- 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