14 June 2010

food revolution

Have you seen the show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? It wrapped up a while ago, but I really enjoyed watching it, as I witnessed something of a food revolution myself this year at my school. Towards the end of the school year, my school celebrated "Wellness Week." My school district's Child Nutrition Team organized this event, running healthy choice raffles at lunchtime, bringing our district's Wellness Coordinator into our classrooms to guest teach about the dangers of skipping meals and how to make healthy food choices, and hosting special after-school aerobics classes and other fun, healthy activities for the students.

Wellness Week was a great reminder of how hard the Child Nutrition Team works to keep our kids healthy, and what a great job they are doing of reaching that goal. The members of the Team have challenged themselves to meet very stringent dietary regulations for all the meals they serve, including avoiding serving chocolate and strawberry milks, which contain as much sugar as soda, serving juices that are free from artificial colorings and added sweeteners, and making sure all of the food groups are represented in every meal offered.

I've seen what a huge difference healthy eating habits can make in students' behavior and academic progress. At my last school, I would frequently see my students come into homeroom with neon red powder on their fingertips, a sure sign that they had eaten Flamin' Hot Cheetos for breakfast. (Are you familiar with the Flamin' Hot Cheeto sensation that's sweepin' the nation? If not, I assure you, it's only a matter of time before you, too, will start noticing the telltale dust coating the fingertips of the precious children around you.) Anyway, after refusing to eat the school lunch, my 5th graders would fill up on candy and more Flamin' Hots, would be completely wired for about the first 15 minutes after recess, and then would crash out for much of the afternoon. In contrast, at the school where I worked this past year, my students would finish most of their food (and IMO, it's no small accomplishment to get middle schoolers to finish a well-balanced meal), and their attention span would remain much more steady throughout the day, allowing us to get through class material much more productively. So, Kudos to the awesome people who make up the Child Nutrition Team, who have taken on, and defeated, the neon red-clawed beast that is the Flamin' Hot Cheeto!

I realize these stories are purely anecdotal, so if you would like more evidence regarding the relationship between healthy eating and academic success, check out this article about the link between diet and academic performance and this article about how some food additives raise hyperactivity. If that isn't enough, check out this transcript of an interview with children and school officials in Burbank, CA about the Flamin' Hot Cheetos craze, and some of its less-than-pleasant side effects. Bon appetit!

P.S.: If you haven't seen Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, the episodes are still available here. Shout-out to my college friend T, who goes to medical school at Marshall University in Huntington, WV (where the show takes place), and has a cameo appearance in one of the episodes!

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