Elementary students merely receive 3.4 hours annually of nutrition education; it is proven that 50 hours are needed to make an impact on long-term attitudes towards food. Teachers have the potential to influence the eating habits of their students through nutrition education programs; however, there are limitations on their capacity to educate effectively. The current lesson plans don’t expand much past the food pyramid and “eat your veggies!” Public elementary school educators must follow a classroom curriculum in compliance with their school districts’ expectations, and there is insufficient time to add on entire nutrition lessons to the required courses. Next, 72% of K-12 teachers are uneducated on nutrition concepts, to begin with, meaning that a well-construed curriculum is necessary (Metos & Sarnoff, 2019).
A gargantuan issue is that while classrooms provide sufficient nutrition education programming, home, and school eating behaviors are misaligned with the teachings. For instance, 82% of teachers use candy as rewards in the classroom (Metos & Sarnoff, 2019). Behavior changes in students will not change if schools do not implement what they teach (Perera & Frei, 2015). The food environment in both schools and homes must reflect the nutrition education programs if there are to be positive changes in children’s attitudes about food.
A 2013 study conducted by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service showed that students enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) who participated in nutrition education programs increased their fruit and vegetable consumption and were more inclined to select fat-free/low-fat dairy options. The most successful education methods involved giving students take-home materials so that their caregivers could be aware of what their student was learning in class and how they could be of assistance. In the study, the students that brought home education materials adopted healthier long-term behaviors. Two-thirds of teachers do not relay their students’ schooltime eating behaviors to their caregivers, making caregivers unaware of what their children are consuming throughout the day (Metos & Sarnoff, 2019). Many caregivers do not know how to prepare healthy meals on a tight budget, so future take-home materials could include recipes and tips for healthy eating (Perera & Frei, 2015).
Eating habits that are adopted in elementary-aged students carry on to their adolescence and have an impact on their future health. Teaching positive dietary messages and increasing children’s knowledge about nutrition is proven to improve their food preferences - only when these messages are regularly relayed (Powers & Struempler, 2005). Since it is burdensome on elementary teachers to add designated “nutrition education” to their class schedules, it would be worthwhile for educators to integrate nutrition information within their Math/Science/English curriculums (Perea & Frei, 2015). Nutrition education is worthless if the information students receive is not reflected in the behaviors of students’ classrooms and households.
The content displayed on this portfolio may not be accurate. Portfolio content is managed by individual users and is not property of the University of Denver.