Nutrition education has progressed minimally throughout the past century. American education efforts began in 1894 when the government allocated money to research the basic properties of food. By 1910, the United States Department of Agriculture began distributing millions of pamphlets that contained basic facts (like what fats, carbohydrates, and proteins are); however, it wasn’t until 1920 that these sources of information began taking an advisory approach as to what people should and should not eat. The inception of children's nutrition education was focused on malnutrition and on how to get children to gain weight (Ruis, 2011).
Schools began teaching basic nutrition education in the early 20th century, but these lessons varied across cities and school districts. Most nutrition classes have been conducted on an ad hoc basis through private organizations and charities because few public boards of education believed that children’s nutrition was their responsibility. The earliest attempt to standardize nutrition education didn’t come until 1941. This proved to be a mere attempt because each school district nationally had varying interests and resources (Ruis, 2011).
As of 2019, less than half of American schools mandated nutrition education (Dunleavy, 2019). It is controversial as to whether or not the responsibility of nutrition lies within the home. Teachers are struggling to effectively incorporate nutrition education into the classroom (“Nutrition Education in America’s Schools”). Some methods include: through songs, growing plants (and seeing that plants grow based on the need for water rather than their wants/appetite for it), and raising guinea pigs (testing which foods caused the most weight gain). These tactics have been done with the intention that students would bring their learnings home to their caregivers (Ruis, 2011).
Most teachings have been unproductive since most students forget the helpful habits they developed from school when they take holiday breaks and summer vacation. Food insecure individuals have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to nutrition since thorough food nutrition programs (such as planting gardens) are less accessible to lower-income school districts and unhealthier food tends to be cheaper (Ruis, 2011).
There has been legislation passed that supports healthier school environments, but there aren’t specific federal education requirements that apply to all school children. There are recommendations to make nutrition part of standardized tests to measure students’ understanding of the important subject (Dunleavy, 2019).
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