By Ray Levy-Uyeda for Mic
School-aged children spend six to seven hours a day in school, yet they receive just five hours of nutritional education on average in a given year. A new bill introduced this week by Sens. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) aims to change that. It’s called the Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act of 2020, and if passed, the bill will use federal funds to increase nutritional education in schools, particularly in neighborhoods where students are at heightened risk for developing diet-related diseases like diabetes or suffer from malnutrition.
The proposed legislation relies on research and work conducted by FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps grantee that aims to provide healthy food access and education to kids. “We know that all children in America must have access to healthy food to succeed. With the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee focused on reauthorizing child nutrition programs this Congress, the time to act is now,” Kristin Lynch, a spokesperson for Booker, told Mic in an email.
Studies show that young people are more likely to eat healthy foods when they know where their meals come from and have a hand in the preparation. There’s ample evidence, as well, that students tend to perform better academically if they’re consuming a wider range of food, including more fruits and vegetables. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that students who received A grades in school were more likely to eat breakfast, consume vegetables, and not drink soda or other sugary drinks than their peers who earned mostly D’s or F’s.
FoodCorps, whose representatives helped to shape the scope and language of the Booker-Cornyn bill, found that hands-on learning about food systems increased fruit and vegetable consumption for children. Food habits and preferences are developed during childhood, which means that elementary-aged children are especially well-suited for this kind of hands-on education, which teaches food and nutrition awareness.
“We have seen firsthand how food and nutrition educators can make a difference by delivering high-quality hands-on opportunities in classrooms, cafeterias, and gardens, changing kids’ relationship with food for the better,” said Kumar Chandran, FoodCorps’s policy director, in a press release provided to Mic.