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.