Archive for Monday, July 9, 2007

Instant gratification

Not every lesson you learn in school, including lessons on nutrition, is going to have an instant impact.

July 9, 2007


Various studies apparently are showing that the $1 billion the federal government is spending on nutrition education isn't working.

Really? A billion dollars worth of lessons that feature videos of dancing fruit and prizes for eating healthy snacks haven't instantly caused youngsters to start choosing carrots and cauliflower over Cheetos? Go figure.

Another way to look at this issue, however, is to consider that many lessons taught in kindergarten through high school take some time to sink in. And, just like adults, children often aren't motivated just by the knowledge that they should do one thing over another.

It's certainly valid to consider that the large amounts of money the federal government is spending on nutrition education could be better targeted. It's good for youngsters to have basic information about what foods are good for them, but mountains of research show there are many, many factors that affect childhood obesity and weight gain at any age. People eat because of low self-esteem or other emotional triggers. Lifestyles that put youngsters in front of TV and computer screens rather than outside getting physical exercise are a huge factor. Then there is advertising that hardly ever focuses on carrots, but rather whets youngsters' appetites for high-fat, high-sugar treats.

Clearly, just putting the information out there for children isn't going to change their eating habits significantly. But, especially if their parents model healthy exercise and eating habits, some of that information may come back to them later in their lives when they are more concerned about their health or more ready to forgo instant gratification in favor of longer-term benefits.

A broader approach to teaching healthy lifestyles may have more benefits than a narrow focus on teaching nutrition, but significant changes in our national health likely will require a change in societal attitudes, not unlike what has occurred with smoking.

Dancing fruit may inspire immediate change in the eating habits of a few children, but real change for society as a whole is likely to take some time.


Richard Heckler 10 years, 9 months ago

What about phys ed? We had it in school 5 days a week through the senior year. It was good for our brain cells.

Healthy eating like peace begins at home. It starts early like at about 6 months old. Stop bringing home junk food. Take the kids to the store and spend a lot of time in the produce aisle. Avoid cereals with sweeteners. Fruits and carrots are the kind of sweets children need.

Schools should not spend tax dollars on fried foods and junk food. Throw out the pop machines or load them with natural juices. If parents want their children to have soda pop they can send it along.

gr 10 years, 9 months ago

"Many of the kids do not eat well at home, the school should make sure they get at lease one good healthy meal each day."

That is interesting. Some say that we MUST teach kids how to have sex because they aren't being taught at home, we MUST teach kids this, and that. What about eating properly? Teaching kids to eat properly sounds much more appropriate for schools than the other stuff people are promoting schools to teach.

But, instead, schools are giving junk foods to kids every day! I'm sure the kids enjoy the meals more. But they are giving kids food that I was taught to consider as a treat rather than a normal meal. Every day it's a SUPERSIZE ME meal.

Unless I'm mistaken, but I believe a majority of schools don't really "cook" the meals, but have a contract with the junk food provider and the schools merely heat them up and dish them out. It's all about money. And convenience. How would you like to be a school cook and have to start a meal from scratch, do the best nutrition planning you are able to do, and have the kids go, 'yeck, broccoli again'. I usually had to bring my lunch to school because of poor food choices. And that was before the junk food menu. If kids don't like eating healthy, let THEM bring their junk food from home. At least the parents "could" have a say in what they're eating that way.

And I'm sure someone could look into these contracts. Only one provider is chosen and then they have a monopoly. I wonder if someone gets a kickback down the line.

Then there's the aspect of the pop machines. Having dancing vegetables, and then making available something that serves no purpose but to harm the students. And make money! For education? I think kids are smart enough to see the conflict. 'You should eat healthy, but if you should choose unhealthy things, here's a pop machine we provide and you can give us the money.'

Christian Hinton 10 years, 9 months ago

I wonder how much was spent on the advertising of "junk food" to children by companies last year. I would be willing to bet it vastly outweighs the $1 billion spent by the government on health education.

On top of that, parents need to be held responsible for setting good standards for their children. I agree with Merrill.

gr 10 years, 9 months ago

"On top of that, parents need to be held responsible for setting good standards for their children."

But now, you have kids, who haven't been trained in nutrition, raising kids. Not only do they not have a clue of how to be responsible, but they wouldn't see anything wrong with raising the kids as they are.

bige1030 10 years, 9 months ago

Simply educating children on healthy eating isn't going to help them develop healthy eating habits at all if their parents aren't eating healthy (or at least providing healthy meals for their kids). A program in the schools could work only if parental involvement were mandatory. For instance, kids could be required to keep a dietary log, and a mandatory parent-student-school nurse conference about healthy eating would take place if there are unhealthy habits that need to be broken.

gr 10 years, 9 months ago

"A program in the schools could work only if parental involvement were mandatory."

You can't mandate health involvement to parents. So therefore, we conclude from bige1030, if parents aren't going to be involved, why should schools do anything. So, carry on as before and have the schools feed junk food to students because the schools make money off of it.

If you can't be perfect, no use doing any good - especially if you can profit from it. No use even trying.

Let's apply that to the global alarmists hype. Since everyone isn't going to believe and do, we just as well drop all requirements for fuel efficiency. But that isn't a fully matching analogy unless you purposely encourage gas hogs. (And that last term may match pretty good!)

perkins 10 years, 9 months ago

The foolish No Child Left Behind law has resulted in many schools cutting back on phys ed and recess. That extra twenty minutes a day should go toward more math/English drills to help insure more kids pass the darn tests, the reasoning goes. And here I thought education was supposed to be primarily a state matter, one of those powers not delegated to Uncle Sam by the constitution. We need wise local education leaders more than ever since we seem to be stuck with No Child Left Behind.

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