Facts About Child Nutrition
- Missing meals and experiencing hunger impair children’s development and achievement. Studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Pediatrics, and the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry document the negative effects of hunger on children’s academic performance and behavior in school. Hungry children have lower math scores. They are also are more likely to repeat a grade, come to school late, or miss it entirely.
- Eating breakfast at school helps children perform better. Studies published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that academic achievement among students who eat school breakfasts tends to rise, especially in math.
- Students who eat breakfast at school have better attendance records and exhibit fewer behavior problems. In studies of school breakfast programs in Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, scientists have found that students who eat breakfast at school have better attendance records, are less likely to be tardy, and exhibit fewer behavioral and psychological problems. Schools report that offering all students free breakfast improves behavior and increases attentiveness.
- Obesity is a major — and growing — problem among American children. The rate of obesity among U.S. children has tripled in the past 30 years. Today, one in five American children is obese, which increases their risk of lifelong health problems such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Obesity is thought to be a product of several interacting factors, including genetic susceptibility, behavior (diet and level of physical activity), and environment (home, school, and community).
- To be effective, nutrition standards must encompass all food sold in schools. Establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold on the school campus throughout the day. While school meals must meet federal nutrition standards, foods sold individually outside the meal programs, such as those available in vending machines, are not required to meet comparable nutrition standards. Thus, students can purchase soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, salty snacks, candy, and high-fat baked goods throughout the school day.
Sources: Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)