An Assessment of Nutrition Education in Public Schools and How It Has Impacted Childhood Wellness; Special Focus: Baltimore County Public Schools
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Type of Work77 pages
ProgramMA in Environmental Studies
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Environmental studies -- Capstone (Graduate)
Over the past few years, nutrition has become an absolute passion of mine and continues to play a dominant role in the way I live my life. As the youngest of three children growing up in a busy household, proper nutrition was not a part of our daily lives. We always had food on the table and in our lunchboxes, but they were not the healthiest. My parents bought groceries that were affordable and well liked among all three of us. Each of us played sports and were heavily involved in school activities, making weeknight dinners at the table a tough task. Food needed to be convenient and quick. I see this same theme in households today. Although I understand the thought process many parents go through in terms of food choice, I wanted to know more about the factors that affected their decisions. With my eagerness to educate myself on the matters in which nutrition exists in our society, as well as the ways in which it is perceived, I found a great need for discussion and improvement in public school nutrition education. As a former student within the Baltimore County Public School system, I had a strong desire to examine how nutrition education has evolved in comparison to how it subsists in schools present-day. In order to do this successfully, I first assessed the issues that school-aged children are faced with, including obesity and type II diabetes. Much of this is heavily science-based. With illustrations and recent data from surveys and studies, it became quite obvious how these health disparities have negatively affected children over time. Once I laid out this foundation, I then gave support as to why nutrition education is so important in school curricula. An overview of how nutrition education has evolved over the past 75 years, in addition to recent major legislation that revamped nutrition in schools nationwide, are major factors within this chapter. With this detailed information, I continued to research success stories from schools across the country that are paving the way for others to make similar improvements in overall food choice and healthy habits. These include notable schools/programs such as The Ross School in New York and The Edible Schoolyard in California. Once discovering all of the techniques employed to create such a positive, effective learning environment, I sought ways in which Baltimore County Public Schools were making similar efforts. In conversation with the Director of the Office of Food and Nutrition Services for Baltimore County Public Schools, Ms. Karen Levenstein, it became apparent that the desire to create positive change in nutrition education exists, yet issues with cooperation, funding, and accessibility produce obstacles for her team. Further improvements are on the horizon as the problems are being acknowledged and corrected. Likewise, the future of nutrition education looks optimistic as more and more information circulates about childhood health and its impact on their overall well-being. Of all the parties that can have a positive impact on today’s younger generation, I deemed the most essential to be that of the parents/guardians. The divide that exists between school and home must be tightened to ensure the nation’s children are learning how food choice and healthy habits can lead to a longer, happier future. In discussion of these issues, I always kept in mind the link to environmental studies and how this topic related. Over the two years I’ve spent studying material ranging from cultural influences, economic impacts, social norms, and more, there are major themes that have traveled through each subject. The most memorable theme is that of overconsumption. Not only does this apply in terms of overuse of fossil fuels and energy, but also in relation to food. Americans, especially, consume large amounts of food that also require large amounts of energy to produce. Due to this, we are operating under unsustainable conditions. Our planet simply cannot continue to support the way in which we live our lives. Another theme I found useful in this project is the role of authority. It is important to question who has the authority in any given situation and what makes them authoritative. We must know background information in order to fully assess one’s right or position to be the authority figure. Who gives them this power? Why should we listen to them? This goes hand in hand with the idea of skepticism and why it is important to question others. We need to have all of the information before making an informed decision; it is not enough to take someone’s word as truth before assessing all factors. I found this very helpful when researching the current trends in obesity and type II diabetes, as well as implementation of current school food standards. The Environmental Studies program is multi-disciplinary and encompasses a wide range of topics. As a student who appreciates holistic learning and understanding how concepts intertwine with one another, I was able to write about an issue that is not only important to me on a personal level, but is also significant on a much larger scale – much larger than myself.
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