Today, there is a stronger general understanding of how the foods we put in our bodies impact our physical health. We know healthy eating is a key contributor to energy levels and social-emotional development. There is science behind being hangry. Still, studies have shown that over 40% of daily calories consumed by children ages 2-18 are empty, or lacking in any nutrition. Poor nutrition has a significant impact on a child’s ability to focus and can lower cognitive function, which is so important when it comes to learning in school, widening many of the equity gaps that exist particularly in our most underserved communities.

Further, every year, an alarming number of children are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, obesity and other chronic health-related issues, most of which become lifelong battles. According to the CDC, more than 40% of fourth and seventh graders in our state are considered either overweight or obese. Research has conclusively shown that youth living in underresourced communities have 2.31 times greater odds of being affected by obesity than children living in higher-income homes and are likely to face greater health care challenges than their more affluent peers.

One way to address this gap in nutrition equity is through improved nutrition education in our schools.

We have a generation-changing opportunity to prioritize inclusive nutrition education in our schools to bridge the nutrition equity gap in California because every child should have the resources to eat healthily and learn how food impacts overall wellness. There are cost-effective ways to implement nutrition education in our schools by partnering with nonprofits that already have a good record of working in this area. Since 2008, Common Threads has taught over 130,000 Angelenos and provided more than 1.4 million hours of nutrition education for children, their parents, teachers, and families. Before the pandemic, the organization’s programming was present in over 200 schools throughout the Los Angeles region, helping young people learn about nutrition, how to make healthy meals and the importance of developing lifelong healthy eating habits. At many schools, these efforts complemented existing school activities like Glenfeliz Boulevard Elementary School’s farm-to-table gardening program, so students in the heart of LA can develop a hands-on relationship with food from the source.

Read the full article about nutrition education by Elizabeth Falkner at EdSource.