You are on page 1of 5

Engber  1   Ariela  Engber   Beth  Sherman     RWS  305   7  November  2012   New  York  Times  Op  Ed:  Nutritional

 Integration   With  widespread  media  coverage  of  the  obesity  epidemic  in  the  U.S.,  is  no  secret  that   America  has  a  weight  problem.  However,  obese  people  are  not  the  only  ones  at  risk.  Millions  of   American  lives  continue  to  be  endangered  by  unhealthy  diets,  lacking  basic  nutritional   knowledge  necessary  in  forming  healthy  eating  habits  during  their  formative  years.     Until  about  a  year  ago,  I  was  one  of  these  Americans.  I  never  looked  at  food  labels   beyond  a  quick  glance  at  the  calorie  content  and  serving  size  –  tips  that  I  was  lucky  to  have   learned  at  home  early  on.  Looking  back,  I  am  astounded  that  I  managed  to  get  through  13  years   of  public  school  education  and  3  years  of  college  without  knowing  that  my  regular  consumption   of  diet-­‐sodas  and  salty  foods  was  causing  me  to  exceed  my  Sodium  intake  by  1,000+  mg  a  day.     My  years  of  poor  dietary  habits  are  reflected  by  the  Center  of  Disease  Control’s  2012   finding  that  90%  of  the  U.S.  population  is  consuming  too  much  sodium.  According  to  an  earlier   report  published  on  their  website  in  2011,  “the  average  daily  sodium  intake  for  Americans  age   2  years  and  older  [was]  3,436  mg.”  This  is  significant,  considering  the  report’s  recommendation   of  150-­‐1,800  mg  of  Sodium  per  day  with  a  maximum  of  2,300  mg.  The  CDC’s  report  further,   explained  that:  “high  sodium  consumption  raises  blood  pressure.  High  blood  pressure  is  a  major   risk  factor  for  heart  disease  and  stroke,  the  nation's  first  and  third  leading  causes  of  death,   respectively.”  While  Sodium  is  but  one  nutritional  element,  American’s  excessive  daily  intake  

Engber  2   clearly  illustrates  that  there  is  a  discrepancy  between  what  we  should  be  consuming,  and  what   we  are  consuming.     However,  it  cannot  be  assumed  that  this  disparity  stems  from  a  conscious  choice  to   ignore  nutritional  information,  as  it  is  much  more  likely  due  to  a  lack  of  nutritional  knowledge.  I   know  that  in  choosing  to  drink  my  daily  diet-­‐soda  I  was  only  aware  of  the  fact  that  it  was  calorie   free,  completely  oblivious  to  any  other  nutritional  elements.  While  I  had  been  taught  basic   nutrition  in  school,  I  can  barely  remember  the  one  semester  health  class  that  I  took  in  high   school.  I  vaguely  recall  covering  the  food  pyramid  and  learning  about  how  saturated  fat  clogs   arteries  amongst  the  jumble  of  other  health  information  crammed  into  the  course,  including   sexual  protection,  eating  disorders,  and  depression.     California  Congressman  Joe  Baca  reveals  that  the  average  amount  of  time  spent  on   nutrition  in  the  first  four  years  of  U.S.  public  school  education  is  13  hours  per  year.   Comparatively,  the  Center  on  Education  Policy  reported  that  8  hours  were  spent  on  English  per   week  alone,  equating  to  a  total  of  32  hours  a  month.  Despite  the  obvious  difference  between   these  subjects  –  as  English  is,  and  always  has  been,  a  core  subject  that's  importance  cannot  be   understated  –  the  miniscule  amount  of  time  devoted  to  Nutrition  comparatively  reflects  where   schools  are  focusing  their  time,  money,  and  energy.     To  be  sure,  many  schools  are  attempting  to  provide  their  students  with  the  best  health   education  that  they  can,  but  in  the  current  economic  climate,  they  simply  lack  the  funds.  Given  the   estimation  published  by  Journal  of  Principle  Leadership  in  2013  that  “two-­‐thirds  of  school  districts   across  the  United  States  expect  to  eliminate  [staff]  positions”  and  “a  quarter  expect  to  use   furloughs  to  cut  costs,”  it  is  understandable  why  schools  are  not  funneling  their  money  towards   into  an  expansive  nutrition  initiative.  However,  while  the  current  curriculum  supports  the  U.S.  

Engber  3   Department  of  Education’s  mission  to  promote  “achievement  and  preparation  for  global   competitiveness,”  it  is  failing  to  equip  children  with  basic  information  that  they  need  to  become   healthy  adults.  With  the  CDC’s  report  that  childhood  obesity  was  20%  in  2008  –  almost  triple  the   amount  since  1980  -­‐  we  must  focus  on  finding  a  long-­‐term  solution  so  that  American  children  will   have  enough  nutritional  education  to  become  healthy  adults.   The  lack  of  nutrition  curriculum  in  schools  may  in  part  be  due  to  the  fact  that  the  role  of   teaching  health  and  nutrition  has  traditionally  been  left  at  home  with  parents.  However,   considering  that  the  CDC  has  deemed  more  than  35%  of  the  current  U.S.  adult  population   obese,  it  is  clear  that  many  adults  are  no  longer  equipped  to  take  care  of  themselves,  much  less   America’s  future  generations.  For  years  my  brother  and  I  were  served  homemade  Mac  and   Cheese,  which,  while  delicious,  equated  to  roughly  30  grams  of  fat  per  meal  (as  we  lacked   proper  portion  control  and  ate  at  least  double  the  serving  size).  It  was  only  when  I  was  in  high   school  that  my  mother  -­‐  fresh  with  nutrition  knowledge  from  her  personal  training  certification   test  -­‐  decided  to  cook  healthier  options  and  eliminate  fatty  meals.  While  my  family  was  lucky   that  our  meals  became  healthier  with  my  mother’s  new  expertise,  I  had  already  formed   unhealthy  eating  habits  early  on  and  was  resistant  to  the  change.  It  was  only  when  I  was   researching  a  paper  during  the  spring  semester  of  my  Junior  year  of  college  that  I  realized  my   unhealthy  eating  habits  and  consciously  decided  to  find  out  more  information  and  make  a   change.  Can  we  continue  to  rely  on  parents  who  don’t  have  nutritional  knowledge  to  teach   children  eating  habits?  On  the  hope  that  children  will  decide  to  proactively  educate   themselves?   This  is  simply  unacceptable.  While  budget  and  time  are  the  primary  concerns  associated   with  focusing  attention  on  nutrition,  increasing  health  education  does  not  have  to  be  expensive  

Engber  4   or  divert  attention  from  other  subjects.  Nutrition  can  be  easily  integrated  K-­‐12  across  various   subjects  such  as  Math,  English  and  Science.  According  to  a  study  conducted  by  Jody  Swigris,  a   program  implemented  in  a  Middle  School  found  nutrition  integration  into  math  classes  resulted   in  “significant  increases”  in  nutrition,  fitness,  and  math  knowledge.  Though  the  study’s   nutritional  integration  was  limited  to  8th  grade  math  classes,  its  success  has  broader   implications.  An  article  published  in  the  American  Journal  of  Health  Studies  suggests  ways  that   nutrition  can  be  seamlessly  integrated  in  science  classes  studying  photosynthesis  and  food   chains  while  “food  production,  distribution,  and  availability  concepts  integrate  with  lessons  in   geography  and  climate,  history,  and  economics.”  Math  integration  can  be  taught  across  grade   levels,  starting  with  basic  adding  and  subtracting  of  grams  of  sugar,  to  calculating  daily  caloric   ratios  and  BMI  (Body  Mass  Index).  The  American  Journal  of  Health  Studies  article  also  explained   that  these  integrated  materials  are  already  widely  available  in  many  forms,  including  lesson   plans,  textbooks,  and  online  activities.  Since  these  lessons  are  combined  with  content  from  core   subjects,  current  materials  can  simply  be  replaced  with  nutritionally  integrated  content  without   incurring  additional  costs.  School  Boards  should  implement  nutrition  integration  into  the   current  curriculum,  as  it  offers  an  efficient  and  inexpensive  way  to  enhance  students’  education   while  improving  their  overall  quality  and  longevity  of  life.     While  it  may  not  be  as  comprehensive  as  a  full  nutrition  program,  with  limited  time  and   money  nutrition  integration  in  schools  can  provide  children  a  basic  foundation  of  knowledge,   allowing  them  to  read  food  labels  and  actually  understand  them,  to  learn  that  calories  are  not   the  only  way  to  assess  nutritional  value,  and  to  form  long-­‐lasting  healthy  habits.    Aren’t  future   generations  entitled  to  this  knowledge?      

Engber  5   Works  Cited   Adult  Obesity  Facts.  Division  of  Nutrition,  Physical  Activity,  and  Obesity,  13  Aug.  2012.  Web.  7   June  2012.  <http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html>.   Americans  Consume  Too  Much  Sodium.  National  Center  for  Chronic  Disease  Prevention,  24  Feb.   2011.  Web.  30  Oct.  2012.  <http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssodium/index.html>.   Baca Introduces Legislation to Require Nutrition Education in Schools. U.S. House of Representatives, 9 Feb. 2011. Web. 29 Oct. 2012. <http://baca.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=17&itemid=139>. Childhood  Obesity  Facts.  National  Center  for  AIDS/HIV,  7  June  2012.  Web.  7  June  2012.   <http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssodium/index.html>.   “Choices,  Changes,  and  Challenges  Curriculum  and  Instruction  in  the  NCLB  Era.”  Center  on   Education  Policy,  Dec.  2007.  ProQuest.  Web.  30  Oct.  2012.   Eliassen,  E.K.,  &  M.W.  Wilson.  “Selecting  Appropriate  Elementary  School  Nutrition  Education   Resources.”  American  Journal  of  Health  Studies  22.4  (2007):  224-­‐7.  ProQuest.  Web.  30   Oct.  2012.     Overview  and  Mission  Statement.  U.S.  Department  of  Education.  Web.  30  Oct.  2012.     “School  budget  blues.”  Principal  Leadership,  13.1  (2012):  4.  ProQuest.  Web.  29  Oct.  2012.     Swigris,  Jody  Lynn.  “Wellness  Integrated  Mathematics.”  n.p.:  2011.   Where's  the  Sodium?  There's  Way  Too  Much  in  Common  Food.  .  National  Center  for  Chronic   Disease  Prevention,  7  Feb.  2011.  Web.  29  Oct.  2012.   <http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssodium/index.html>.