When most school kitchens have only deep fryers, microwaves, and displays for candy and junk food at the checkout counters, how can children stay healthy or learn? When the food served is as addictive as heroin or cocaine, who is accountable?
General Jack Keane, former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, shared with me that 70 percent of applicants for the military are unfit to serve and can’t pass standardized qualifying tests for military service. The school lunch program was started in 1946 because military recruits were too thin to serve in the military; now, in part because of our school lunch program, our children are too fat and academically challenged to serve.
Kids who skip breakfast, eat sugar-laden and additive-laced foods, and get 10 to 15 percent of their calories from liquid sugar drinks like sodas and “sports” drinks are more likely to gain weight and develop diabetes, heart disease and stroke in adolescence. They also can’t pay attention, are less alert, can’t solve problems nor do math, have a myriad of learning deficits, and are more depressed, anxious and even violent.
One in six children in America has a neuro-developmental problem, such as learning deficits and attention deficit disorder. Could it be due to what we are feeding our children and the lack of physical activity?
In his landmark paper, Healthier Students are Better Learners: A Missing Link in School Reforms to Close the Achievement Gap, Columbia professor, Charles Basch documents the self-evident premise that kids’ brains can’t work properly if they don’t eat well and move their bodies.
When one in three kids skips breakfast and the rest have vending machine fare of chips and soda, sugary cereals or worse, how can they learn? When the average kid logs eight hours of screen time a day, but only one in five kids meets the recommended levels of physical activity a day, developing brains don’t work.
Professor Basch recently met with Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, and recommended a series of policy changes that will lead to healthier and smarter kids.
Research shows that food additives contribute to attention deficit disorder that affects almost one in 10 children, with many more suffering a milder version. A landmark new paper in the Lancet, found that delayed food sensitivities caused attention deficit disorder and removing food sensitivities could reverse attention deficit disorder in 75 percent of children.
Aggression, violence, and bullying are on the rise in schools. In 2005, there were 628,000 violent crimes among students between the ages of 12 and 18. Twenty-eight percent of these kids reported being bullied in the previous six months, and eight percent were threatened or injured with a weapon in the preceding 12 months. A prison study in England found that supplementing prisoners with a multi-vitamin and fish oil could reduce violent crime in prisons by 37 percent. While diet is one piece of the puzzle, providing an environment where our children feel safe and secure is crucial to their wellbeing.
So what can you do to help your child and what can we do as a nation to raise a smarter, fitter, happier generation of children? It is a two-part solution. We have to take back our homes and take back our schools, which have been hijacked by the food industry.
Take Back Your Homes
You have total control over what you bring into your home and what you choose to do there. Small changes can have a big impact on your family’s and your children’s health and happiness. These changes also impact the food industry, agriculture, and marketing practices.
Take Back Our Schools
Remember, childhood obesity is not the only result of poor diet. Kids with bigger bellies can have smaller brains. The insults of poor diet and lack of activity have staggering implications for our children and their health and cognitive abilities. But we have the knowledge and capacity to take back our homes and our schools and create healthier, smarter, and fitter children.