Letter to the editor: Why nutrition should be embraced in elementary education
By Samuel Granger, social relations and policy senior
Our children are our future, and right now that future is not looking bright when it comes to health. With childhood obesity and Type II diabetes on the rise, it can sometimes feel like we only get sicker and sicker. But we can affect this future by changing how we teach children about food in the present.
One of the most powerful changes we can make is to implement nutrition education into public school curriculums. Healthy eating doesn’t happen by accident. Knowledge about nutrition and cooking and the appreciation of good, healthy food are as important to our daily lives as traditional topics like history, science and math, and these skills should be taught alongside them as part of daily instruction in public schools.
There is no denying the problems that we currently have with childhood obesity. The rate of obese youngsters between 2 and 19 years old has risen steadily since 1980, from 7 percent to a staggering 17.2 percent in 2014, according to The State of Obesity website. Obese children have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and bone and joint problems.
Could this truly be the first generation that does not see ages older than those of their parents? This is something that is utterly unnecessary given the technological advancement of our society. We might see driverless cars flooding the streets in our lifetime while simultaneously falling victim to countless preventable diseases.
If we have any hope of getting on top of this, we must take action to see to it that nutrition be a part of the school day routine. It doesn’t have to be a huge change. Even 30 minutes a week dedicated to lessons on healthy eating habits could make a difference. Ideally, though, healthy eating would be an integral part of each day for students and teachers.
Furthermore, better school lunches must be served. It would be ironic if students sat in class learning about the benefits of fruits and vegetables and then an hour later downed cheeseburgers.
While it might be hard for students to part with old habits at first, healthy eating can be delicious eating if done the right way. Once kids try these different foods and realize many of them taste good, too, we’ll be making some real strides.
A competing argument might be that there are already health and gym classes in schools, why the need for more? Health class is often broad, covering various topics. Furthermore, gym class promotes physical fitness but overlooks the huge impact eating plays in health.
Gym is not an adequate solution, although perhaps nutrition instruction could be an extension of the gym class period. Kids could run around and enjoy themselves, before settling in to learn about healthy eating.
The more well-nourished kids are, the greater possibility that they will find academic success. Studies have shown that obesity leads to poorer academic performance in the form of lower test scores and lowered likelihood of going to college.
Therefore, it is advantageous for schools to teach and promote better nutrition because it can directly correlate to better test scores and higher college acceptance rates for their students.
Still others might argue that it is parents’ responsibility to teach kids healthy eating habits. The problem is, however, that many American parents do not have healthy eating habits themselves.
I believe we shouldn’t be so harsh on these parents. The best approach would be a kind-hearted effort in schools to make this happen. Teachers play an enormous role in children’s daily lives, and they can and should play a large role in teaching children to eat and enjoy healthy food.
A greater emphasis on nutritious eating habits in schools is well overdue. Getting kids hooked on fruits and vegetables at a young age needs to overtake the norm of kids getting hooked on McDonald’s. Initiating these programs can turn the tide on the obesity problem in our nation.