We are always talking about the importance of nutrition for children.
I am always sharing new studies or reports that emphasizes the negative impact on children who skip breakfast or don't have a balanced diet. But this new report highlights some concrete evidence that academic success, readiness to learn go hand in hand with nutrition.
But not only nutrition, there is also sound evidence that physical activity can impact a child's readiness to learn. These studies are pointing to the need that a schools success may actually be reliant upon them focusing nutrition and exericse as part of their strategies to improve and enhance a child's ability to learn and retain knowledge.
This is so important because we know that PE programs have been cut and schools have felt that they do not have the time to worry about nutrition. It seems that although schools agree that nutrition and exercise is important, they have not realized that it is more than important - it is actually necessary.
it may also impact many schools funding because children who have less exercise or poor nutrition are more likely to have more sick days. Schools only get paid if the child goes to school. They do not get paid when a child is absent.
Some key findings in the report are:
The report does provide areas and specific guidance on how we can address these issues.
School breakfast programs are underutilized. How can we increase the participation to breakfast programs. One way is to make the foods more convenient for children and another way is to make breakfast part of the school day, much like lunch is part of the school day.
We need to offer healthy, nutrient dense foods in school. I know there is a great deal of focus and effort in this area to improve the diet quality of the foods offered in school. So we are headed in the right direction with the new nutrition standards for lunch and breakfast and new standards being reviewed for snacks. We need to get the junk out so children are feeding their bodies and brains foods that will not only give them energy but also strengthen and enhance the bodies physiological systems.
It is said to read that in 2011, 22.4% of our nation's children (about 16.6 million children) live in homes without enough food. That is why increasing utilization of the School Breakfast program is so important. A hungry child will not be in ready mode to learn.
We have to bring back regular physical activity as part of the school's education program. In fact, we need to become more creative and include short bouts or intervals of physical activity between strategic learning breaks right in the classroom.
If we all start to realize that nutrition and physical activity are not in competition with core academic classes but instead, a "must" prerequisite to learning, we can begin to change our child's school day and optimize their learning.
Read the whole report, The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Success through Healthy School Environments.