Distance learning has enabled education to continue for millions of children during the COVID pandemic — but it is also undermining sound nutrition for many youngsters who now spend hours a day on education sites where food companies advertise unhealthy snack food.
While the situation reflects the dangers of the Internet and the often-pernicious influence of commercial food producers, the key takeaway, according to Julia McCarthy, Deputy Director of TC’s Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, is that school-based food programs must continue to be a presence even when school buildings are closed.
“Pausing food marketing on educational platforms is a notable step for these companies and the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, write McCarthy and Michele Polacsek, a public health researcher at the University of New England, in an opinion piece published this week in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald. “But school districts need more than a temporary promise from the select companies that are voluntary members of the self-regulatory group — they need clear, comprehensive and sustained USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] action to mitigate some of the longer-term effects of school closures on student health.
School districts need more than a temporary promise from the select companies that are voluntary members of the self-regulatory group — they need clear, comprehensive and sustained USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] action to mitigate some of the longer-term effects of school closures on student health.
“The current public health crisis has highlighted the important role schools play in students’ diets. Let’s take this opportunity to ensure that even in this time of distance learning, schools promote healthy, lifelong behaviors.”
[Read the full opinion piece by McCarthy and Polacsek. Read a story about a new study just published in The Journal of Urban Health by McCarthy and researchers at several other institutions highlighting food distribution best practices followed by the nation’s four largest urban school districts — New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston — when the pandemic first struck last spring. The Tisch Food Center is housed within Teachers College’s Program in Nutrition.]