Nutrition is an important part of everyone’s continued health and longevity. This is especially true with children. They are not only developing physically and mentally, but also developing lifelong eating habits that will have a lasting effect on their ability to enjoy life. An increasing number of health studies are finding that food that is more nutrient-dense (less processed) is beneficial to a person’s overall health. Eating foods such as whole fruits, vegetables and grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, protein foods and healthy oils reduce the chances of diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and various cancers.
Eating foods with fewer nutrients (highly processed) and increased levels of calories from added sugars and solid fats may create an energy imbalance (caloric intake is higher than what is burned) potentially leading to weight concerns. Excess weight is contributing to an increase of deaths each year in the United States – deaths that could potentially have been delayed. Eating well also benefits students in the classroom. Studies note that students who have proper nutrition are in a better mental state to learn, have a stronger immune system, are more apt to come to school, concentrate more, exhibit positive behavior and cause fewer disruptions. Students eating a healthy diet also tend to score higher on assessments at the state and local levels.
A key to achieving that is to provide students with breakfast and lunch. Students who do not eat breakfast may develop stomach aches or other ailments causing them to lose concentration or leave class. Missing class is a major concern as those students are unable to acquire the knowledge necessary for success in that class. Missing just two days per month adds up to missing more than 10 percent of knowledge throughout the course of the school year. Arlington Public Schools provide breakfast and lunch opportunities each school day. Food provided at the meals meets or exceeds federal requirements. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins, low-fat/no-fat milk options, and salad bars are available each day. If your child doesn’t eat at home or bring lunch to school, encourage him or her to eat at school. Providing this service to your child will open doors to learning and a potentially long and healthy life. Please visit our website at asd.wednet.edu under Administration and then Child Nutrition Services or call 360-618-6237 for more information.
Ed Aylesworth is the Arlington Public Schools director of Nutrition and Support Services. A school column runs monthly.