We grow up being told breakfast is the most important meal of the day and to always eat our fruits and vegetables. However, we are not very aware about how our body responds to important nutrients and even less so how our body reacts when we aren’t getting the nutrients we need. Though public schools in the United States are slowly becoming more health conscious about the foods that are being served in cafeterias, they are not necessarily emphasizing the importance of food in relation to academic function and the success of their students.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a National School Lunch Program (NSLP) as well as a School Breakfast Program (SBP) implemented in public schools nation-wide that provides subsidized food and nutrition assistance for school children who may not get the same filling, nutritious meals at home as they do during school hours. Studies show that eating a nutritious breakfast and lunch not only fuels our bodies, but improves cognitive function and increases attention span, while it decreases irritability. Not eating enough throughout the day can affect physical development, cognition and behavior, and lead to various diseases later in life. While serving more nutritious meals in schools is essential, it’s important to also acknowledge food-insecure students, in order to ensure that the entire school population has access to meals. By providing students with nutritious and filling meals, we are ensuring that students and teachers are in the most productive, energetic and attentive learning environment. These government-subsidized programs are important in safeguarding the futures of low-income children who may have trouble paying attention in class due to hunger.
Food insecurity describes individuals or families that are lacking reliable access to sufficient, affordable and nutritious food. Boulder Valley School District follows the rest of the country in providing food insecure students who qualify with free and reduced lunch service to those who qualify. However, not all food insecure families actually qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch or other federally-funded nutrition assistance. Actually, 43% of the food insecure children in Boulder County most likely are not eligible for these programs. BVSD recognized the limiting nature of the federal guidelines for free and reduced lunch, and started a No Student Hungry: Weekend Nutrition Bag Program that offers nutritious ingredients for meals and snacks for all students to take home over the weekend and extended breaks, for free! This way, BVSD acknowledges those who may still be hungry, but whose families do not meet the federal guidelines for food assistance. These programs are exceptionally important as they provide nutritious meals to kids that may otherwise see their only filling and hot meal at school. 15% of all children in Boulder County are considered food insecure- that is about 9,500 kids who are not getting enough food throughout the day, and, thus, not getting the most of their education due to hunger. This highlights the importance of providing our children with enough food to succeed in school, and thus succeed in future opportunities.
Boulder Valley School District is doing a fantastic job serving nutritious lunches to their schools every day while also supporting our local farms and businesses such as Cure Organic Farm, Black Cat Farm, Rocky Mountain Fresh, Moe’s Bagels, and Boulder Natural Meats. All of their beef and chicken is hormone and antibiotic free, their milk is organic, food is cooked from scratch, and every school has a salad bar with fresh fruits and veggies. BVSD is the first Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership or REAL certified school district in the country and the only public K-12 school district on the Good Food 100 Restaurant List. The REAL certification was made possible through the partnership BVSD has with The Chef Ann Foundation. Together they created School Food Project in effort to transform their average school cafeteria that served processed foods with high fructose corn syrup, too much sugar, too much sodium, and too much fat, into a world where every child in the district can be served the best possible food, while at the same time learning about the food and being a part of the process so they can go home and pick out these more nutritious options with their parents. Chef Ann made lunch period into a learning experience for the kids in our community, hoping to spark a sustainable change nation wide, and “changing the way we feed our kids”.
There are many ways that you can help ensure that the kids at our local schools are getting the food they need to succeed. You can click the hyperlinks in the above post or click below to be directed to websites for more resources to get involved, donate, and educate yourself on food insecurity in Boulder County.
CHILD FOOD INSECURITY IN COLORADO BY COUNTY 2015
BOULDER COUNTY HEALTH COMPASS
BVSD NO CHILD HUNGRY RESEARCH
BOULDER VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT SCHOOL FOOD PROJECT
BVSD MEALS, RECIPES AND MORE
BOULDER FOOD RESCUE