Schools across the United States are making new efforts to help shape their students into healthier, more productive members of American society, and no, we’re not talking about common core or any other new revisions to state curriculum. One of the biggest battles against America’s ever dwindling academic reputation isn’t taking place in textbooks and classrooms; it’s taking place in the cafeteria.
In 1946, the federal government passed the National School Lunch Act with the goal of making school lunches affordable and accessible to all American students. In 1998, the program was expanded to reimburse parents and students for any money spent on supplementary snacks throughout the day, assuming, of course, they met the economic requirements for enrollment. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, enrollment of public school programs looking to take advantage of the National School Lunch Program skyrocketed, and by the time the recession began to wind down in 2012, over 31 million students across the country had access to partially or fully subsidized meals and snacks through their schools.
Despite the fact that the Great Recession is said to be over, many new schools enroll in the National Lunch Program every year. In Sidney, Ohio, a small city of 20,000, for instance, five schools just announced that eligible families can now use the program to help ensure their children have access to better nutrition throughout the school year.
Malnutrition is a Significant Threat to Student Health, Academic Success
According to current statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 15.9 million American children live in households without the means to reliably provide food. The food that these unstable homes can provide and that provided by those just barely making ends meet is often highly processed. This is thought to be one of the key factors in the childhood obesity epidemic, which affects an average 19% of American children from the ages of 6 to 19, as a report from the Centers for Disease Control shows.
Since this sort of malnutrition can affect everything from the color and health of teeth to body weight, schools offering enrollment in the government program can do a lot to improve smiles and overall body image. That in turn can make for a more productive, enjoyable schooling experience.
It’s not just a matter of physical health. A recent study out of Northern Michigan University found that there is a causal link between poor nutrition and poor performance in schools. Compared to children of a healthy body weight, at-risk children and obese children receive poor testing scores almost twice as often. By addressing nutritional disparity, schools, like those in Sidney, can turn the tide on what is clearly a big issue in the American education system.
Do you think continued enrollment in these programs can help American students do better in school? Respectfully share your thoughts in the comments below.