How School Nutrition is Fostering a Culture of Health in Michigan

Via the Michigan Health Endowment Fund: 

A new school year is underway. For kids, this means getting to know new teachers, playing kickball at recess, and trying to understand fractions. And for about one in six, it means struggling to concentrate in the classroom due to food insecurity.

In some regions of Michigan, food insecurity rates reach 25% or higher. When kids don’t get enough nutritious food, they face challenges like inhibited cognitive development and diet-related health conditions. As we think about how to help ensure kids have enough healthy food, it makes sense to focus on the place where kids spend the majority of their time: schools.

At the Health Fund, we see schools not just as places of learning, but as “health homes,” places that can help meet not only children’s academic needs, but also their mental and physical health needs. A few of our 2019 Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles grants are weaving food access, physical activity, and nutrition into the day-to-day lives of young students, creating healthy habits that can last for life. … 

American children of color in the United States are at a higher risk to develop diet-related illnesses like diabetes and hypertension in their lifetimes, and those who lack a nutritious diet have been shown to perform worse in school and have negatively impacted cognitive functioning. FoodCorps Michigan seeks to interrupt that cycle. They believe that kids best learn about healthy food with a hands-on approach—or, even better, with taste buds.

FoodCorps is a national program, started in 2010 as a way for AmeriCorps service members to connect kids to nutrition education in schools. In Michigan, FoodCorps will be expanding their already successful outreach, bringing their sensory-focused, veggie-filled programming to more than a dozen additional schools in Detroit and Muskegon. Most students reached will be children of color receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

From interactive classroom lessons to monthly cafeteria taste-testing, FoodCorps will be providing nutrition education to over 3,500 Michigan students this year, with a goal of 6,000 young Michiganders munching their way into healthier habits by 2020. Beyond that, FoodCorps’ organization-wide vision says it all: “We are creating a future in which all our nation’s children—regardless of race, place, or class––know what healthy food is, care where it comes from, and eat it every day.”