Our children are our future and right now that future is not seeming too bright. But there is change that can be made, particularly by implementing nutrition education into school curriculums. A possible system could arise in which instruction on proper nutrition is worked into the daily routine of class instruction alongside traditional topics like history, science, and math.
There is no denying the issue that we currently have with childhood obesity. The rate of obese youngsters (2-19 year olds) has steadily rose since 1980, from 7%, to a staggering 17.2% in 2014. Incidence of childhood obesity makes way for a number of health concerns that not only lead to lower life expectancy but decreased scholastic performance. Obese children have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and bone and joint problems. Its been said that this is going to be the first generation that does not see older ages than their parents. This is something that is utterly disappointing given the technological advancement of our society. We may 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 apart of the the school day routine. It doesn’t have to be a huge change, all at once, even if 30 minutes a week was dedicated to teachers teaching a lesson on healthy eating habits, real change could be made. Ideally though, healthy eating would be an integral part of each day for students and teachers. Take France for example, where their conscious approach to food begins in school cafeterias. Students and teachers gather and dine on the same nutritious foods, as teachers instruct the kids about each of the different foods they are enjoying. An effort similar to this could start a chain reaction which would have kids informing their parents of the healthy foods they like and want to have at home.
One must also point out the logical assumption that this will also mean better school lunches must be served. It would be quite ironic if students sat in class learning about fruits and vegetables and then an hour later dined on cheeseburgers, washing them down with soft drinks. There have been some schools and school districts around the country that have succeeded with bettering these programs, but this really calls for widespread reform.
Now a competing argument may be that well there are already health and gym classes in schools, why the need for more, taking time away from core subjects? To which one would say, in my experience health class is often broad and not pushed for actually change in individuals it is just there as a required class. Furthermore, gym class promotes healthy bodies but we overlook the huge impact that eating plays in health. Therefore, gym is not a good enough solution. To that point, perhaps nutrition instruction could be an extension of the gym class period. The kids could run around and enjoy themselves, before settling in to learn about healthy eating.
To continue, the better 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, being held back, and being less likely to go to college. Therefore, it is advantageous for schools to teach and promote better nutrition because it could have a ripple effect, resulting in better test scores and higher college acceptance rates for more of their students.
Still others may argue that it is on parents to teach kids good habits like healthy eating. However, many of these parents are obese or overweight themselves and therefore pass on bad eating habits. I believe that we shouldn’t be so harsh to bring an iron fist down on these parents. The best approach would be a kind-hearted effort in schools to make this happen. During the school year, it is teachers that kids see the most of anyway, thus teachers have a profound effect in shaping kids.
In all, 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 at the same time. Initiating these programs can turn the tide on the obesity problem in our nation, leading to more successful, happy, and healthy adults.