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Nutrition Education For Kids Gets a Failing Grade!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Nutrition class isn't working; this is no surprise to me. There have been many stories on the AP newswires focusing on the billions of dollars that have been spent on nutrition education that have produced zero results. There seems to be no dent in the growing epidemic of obesity. Kids continue to get sicker and fatter, because they are not changing the way they eat.
The piece mentions the federal pilot program that provides free fruits and veggies to kids saying kids won't eat these foods. They point to the fast food and coffee drinks available just across the street and even go so far as blaming moms (many who can't afford to buy better foods) as part of the problem.
Here are some suggestions to fix this predicament. First and foremost, let's drop the word "nutrition" from our vocabulary. We shouldn't need to be nutritionists or biochemists to know how to eat. Change the "N" word to the "F" word, FOOD! Food has many more possibilities.
Second, let's get nutrition out of health class! Most states have standards for health curriculum that put sex and drugs at the top of the list. Nutrition comes in third place behind these two more appealing subjects. If you change nutrition to food, it becomes an interesting topic to integrate into science, math, social studies and English curricula.
Educators know that experiential learning is the most effective way to get a point across. Why not take kids outdoors and let them get their hands dirty? Studies who that kids who are involved with growing food are more likely to eat fruits and veggies that were previously unfamiliar. Growing food not only integrates science ( botany and ecology) but fosters a connection with the earth. These kids will be the stewards of our planet in a few short years. We need to get them out from behind screens and out doors. Leave no child inside!
Another experiential component of learning involves cooking. Kids really do like to cook! It doesn't have to be cookies! Teach them to slice an onion ( take a peek at the onion cells under a microscope!). Bake a traditional dish from another country ( social studies, history). Teaching kids to cook gives them life skills that they will need to know. It may even inspire them to go into the culinary arts.
We must change the school food environment to support food based learning. More fresh fruits and veggies in our schools are essential. But not just as a handout in the cafeteria. Each day, each week, feature a veggie. Integrate it into the curriculum in the classroom.
Make lunch count!
Einstein once said a problem cannot be solved with the consciousness that created it.
Our packaged processed food industry and our food pyramid will not solve our current crisis in declining children's health. We need to think out of the pyramid to find innovative food based solutions.