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New Study: Making Nutrition Education Work in Schools

A study just out in the Journal of School Health, by Dr. Kathleen Porter and Tisch Food Center team members, sheds light on why and how New York City schools make external nutrition education programs part of their school’s every day culture.

Schools have A LOT on their plates today, from testing requirements to concerns about school safety. So why do they continue to devote effort and time to bringing in outside nutrition education programs? And, once established, how do these outside programs become integrated into the fabric of the school day?

Findings from Dr. Porter and team give insight into the why-to and how-to of successfully adopting and sustaining nutrition education programs. Findings are based on analysis of interviews with school community members from 21 NYC schools that had one or more nutrition education programs. To make it work, it is important to:

  1. Build motivation for nutrition education, for instance by emphasizing timely, tangible results, and framing it as fitting into a whole child approach to education;
  2. Choose the right nutrition education program(s) based on a school’s needs and culture, involving a range of decision makers in the process;
  3. Expand the school’s capacity for nutrition education, by identifying champions, creating routines and processes, and coordinating with existing school wellness efforts; and,
  4. Sustain nutrition education by engaging a wide range of school community members and weaving nutrition education throughout the school’s curriculum.

Why is this study important?

Ultimately, all students should have access to great nutrition education. Through engaging hands-on activities, school-based nutrition education provides students with the motivation, skills, and knowledge to make choices that are healthy for themselves, their communities, and the planet. Nutrition education programs operated by outside nonprofits, hospitals, companies, government agencies, and universities play an important part in achieving this goal. New York City alone has at least 40 organizations offering 101 nutrition education programs. They can provide expertise, resources, and experiences that complement school’s existing capacity, easing teacher and staff burden. This study provides much needed evidence for champions of school-based nutrition education by clarifying the complex needs of schools throughout the stages of inviting, implementing, and sustaining nutrition education programs.

Published Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018

New Study: Making Nutrition Education Work in Schools

Schools have A LOT on their plates today, from testing requirements to concerns about school safety. So why do they continue to devote effort and time to bringing in outside nutrition education programs? And, once established, how do these outside programs become integrated into the fabric of the school day?

Findings from Dr. Porter and team give insight into the why-to and how-to of successfully adopting and sustaining nutrition education programs. Findings are based on analysis of interviews with school community members from 21 NYC schools that had one or more nutrition education programs. To make it work, it is important to:

  1. Build motivation for nutrition education, for instance by emphasizing timely, tangible results, and framing it as fitting into a whole child approach to education;
  2. Choose the right nutrition education program(s) based on a school’s needs and culture, involving a range of decision makers in the process;
  3. Expand the school’s capacity for nutrition education, by identifying champions, creating routines and processes, and coordinating with existing school wellness efforts; and,
  4. Sustain nutrition education by engaging a wide range of school community members and weaving nutrition education throughout the school’s curriculum.

Why is this study important?

Ultimately, all students should have access to great nutrition education. Through engaging hands-on activities, school-based nutrition education provides students with the motivation, skills, and knowledge to make choices that are healthy for themselves, their communities, and the planet. Nutrition education programs operated by outside nonprofits, hospitals, companies, government agencies, and universities play an important part in achieving this goal. New York City alone has at least 40 organizations offering 101 nutrition education programs. They can provide expertise, resources, and experiences that complement school’s existing capacity, easing teacher and staff burden. This study provides much needed evidence for champions of school-based nutrition education by clarifying the complex needs of schools throughout the stages of inviting, implementing, and sustaining nutrition education programs.

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