Nutrition-wise blog

Investing in kids' health

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. October 6, 2010

Kids do better in school when they're well nourished. Their brains function better when they're physically active. So why don't all schools and childcare programs use these facts to their advantage? These two factors have a major impact on not only school performance but also on dollars saved — immediately in the school budget and long term in the cost of health care.

Kids who are well nourished, active and healthy are more likely to be in school and participating, which reduces the need to spend time helping kids catch up after sick days or addressing poor performance. Thus, teachers can make better use of the available time and resources.

Fewer sick days and better health also equate to savings in health care now and in the future. Consider, for example, that reducing childhood obesity now means fewer obesity-related chronic health problems in the future.

Kids need good role models, access to healthy foods and safe places to play. And many schools are rising to the challenge. The Healthier U.S. School Challenge is an initiative that recognizes schools that have created healthier environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity. Another initiative, Action for Healthier Kids, targets schools with limited resources to help them provide students with opportunities to eat right and be active at school so they're ready to learn.

So how do you — parent, guardian, teacher, principal, food service worker, school board member, neighbor or interested community member — improve the bottom line for our kids? How do you give kids a healthy environment — at home, at school and in the community? Share your ideas here.

- Katherine

Oct. 06, 2010