Three Meals a Day?
More students are eating every meal at school.
When Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act in 1946, it was considered revolutionary. Who knew that 65 years later, some children would be eating not one, not two, but three meals a day at school? Of course, that's exactly what's happening in 13 states piloting a new federal dinner program (breakfast arrived in 1966).
So far, administrators are happy with the additional meal. "We knew that a lot of kids were only eating at school," Jeff Mills, director of food services for D.C. schools, told the Washington Post. "When kids have decent meals they do better," adds Nicholas Fisher, superintendent of Connecticut's New London schools, and the research is there to back him up. Numerous studies have shown that hunger can impact children's cognitive skills and behavior.
In D.C., administrators are hoping the dinner program will also help tackle obesity. More than 43 percent of D.C. students are considered obese, and the new offerings emphasize lean protein, whole grains, and local produce. The Child Nutrition Act, which President Obama signed in December, includes provisions to expand school dinner to more than 20 million children.
Philadelphia Cracks Down on Candy
Anyone who's taught in an urban environment knows kids flock to convenience stores to stock up on soda, candy, and chips. Now one Philadelphia administrator is doing her best to curb this a.m. snacking. Amelia Brown, principal at the William D. Kelley School, has enlisted a neighborhood watch group that normally deals with crime to patrol the corner store near her school and discourage students from buying junk. The volunteers man the stores from 8:15 to 8:30 and encourage students to make use of the school's breakfast program instead. And so far, Brown told the New York Times, the program is working, with fewer kids coming to school on a sugar high. The Kelley School has also boosted efforts to teach students about the importance of good nutrition.
Teacher Stress Linked to Kids' Mental Health
Students with stressed-out teachers and poorly stocked classrooms are more likely to experience mental health issues themselves, according to a recent study by the University of Maryland. The researchers followed 10,700 first graders and found that students whose teachers reported stress and poor conditions had more problems with attentiveness, fights, friendship, and anxiety. "Being in a classroom with a lack of resources might adversely impact children's mental health because children are frustrated or disheartened by their surroundings," the study's co-authors said. "Teachers also may be more discouraged when they can't teach properly due to poor working conditions." It is not clear whether the link is a correlation or a cause and effect, since there may be more students with mental health issues in poorer environments in the first place.
Schools to Offer Dental Care
Now more students in Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, and other states will be able to receive dental cleanings and checkups at their school-based health centers, thanks to a new effort from the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care (NASBHC) and a grant from Kaiser Permanente. "One of the most pressing, unmet health needs of children and adolescents is oral health," Linda Juszczak, executive director of NASBHC, said in a statement. "Poor oral health has been shown to impact students' academic performance, often contributing to poor attendance, concentration problems, and low self-image." Funding for the new program will be distributed through an application process. Currently, only 10 percent of school-based health centers offer basic dental care.