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Every weekday, millions of American schoolchildren throw away their half-eaten cafeteria lunches so that they can run outside to play. "We tell kids not to eat and swim right away. And yet here we are, telling them that the quicker they eat, the quicker they get to recess," says Greg Welk, director of clinical research at Iowa State University's Nutrition and Wellness Research Center.

According to Welk and a growing chorus of educators, poor eating habits, stomachaches and post-recess behavioral problems may be ascribed—at least in part—to a scheduling issue.

From dating violence to sexting and social networking, districts are struggling to address a number of sensitive and relatively new health education issues that are aggravated by students' increasing access to computers, cell phones and other digital devices. Through new or revised curricula, administrators are attempting to deal with these and other issues. Their efforts sometimes become contentious when parents object to language or materials used in a curriculum and even threaten lawsuits to force changes.

Northern California native Jim Rowan is passionate about food. A self-taught chef, Rowan had his own catering business, cooked in resorts and hotels, and was a private chef before becoming culinary director at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. But in July 2008, Rowan made the switch from higher ed to K12. He is now the food service director at Astoria (Ore.) School District and Naselle-Grays River Valley (Wash.) School District, which use Chartwells as their food service provider.

If the schools in your district are like most in the United States, there is a good chance that today’s lunch features pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets or maybe hamburgers with processed cheese. Is serving these types of foods really in the best interest of our children’s health? Common sense says no, as do the statistics, which are startling.


Do the kids in your district need to increase their activity levels? Here are five creative ways to get them moving:

--Encourage teachers to include physical activities for students of all abilities in learning exercises, like nature walks and outdoor scavenger hunts.