What is the LAUSD Nutrition Network?
The LAUSD Nutrition Network supports healthy eating and adequate physical activity for low-income, pre-K through 12th grade students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Our goal is for children to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, and enjoy 60 minutes of physical activity, each day.
This collaborative effort involves students, teachers, school nurses, administrators, food service professionals, parents, corporate partners and community members. With creativity, planning and solid educational practices, we are able to guide the talents of many into thoughtful, meaningful and effective learning experiences for thousands of low-income children in LAUSD.
Why is nutrition education important?
In 1998, UCLA surveyed over 900 students at 14 LAUSD elementary schools and found over 40% of the children to be overweight. These are not isolated cases. It has been well documented that children nationwide have a high rate of obesity, Type II diabetes and anemia. Today’s youth are the most sedentary in history, with diets high in fat, salt and sugar, and low in calcium, fiber and vitamin C. The long-term health implications of these factors are staggering.
The 1999 California Children’s Healthy Eating and Exercise Practices Survey found that only 21% of 9- to 11-year-old children eat the recommended five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables per day, and less than half meet the physical activity recommendation of 60 minutes of exercise per day. However, the survey also found that nutrition education in the classroom can have a positive impact on students’ eating and exercise habits.
What are we doing?
The LAUSD Nutrition Network is changing the way students think about food and exercise by engaging their taste buds, their minds and their bodies. We use food’s universal appeal as a starting point in our projects. In the classroom, the planning, preparation and enjoyment of food is easily turned into an educational experience that can be woven into many core curricular areas – mathematics, science, language arts, social studies and history. When children realize the value and importance of healthy nutrition, the next natural step is to explore how the body uses the energy derived from food for physical and mental activity. Exercise is easily encouraged when it is fun and makes sense.
LAUSD educators, food service professionals and school nurses know that hands-on learning is the best way to engage the mind and create lasting educational experiences for students. School cafeterias are becoming more involved in classroom education and it is an exciting collaboration. Here are some of the programs we promote and encourage:
* Nutrition Education Gardens – living nutrition laboratories that allow students to deepen their understanding and appreciation of food by growing it themselves.
* Harvest of the Month – where students taste and explore a different fruit or vegetable every month.
* Student-led Nutrition Advisory Councils (NAC) – students promote good nutrition and physical activity with their peers.
* Chefs in the Classroom – bringing food service professionals and hands-on cooking experiences into the classroom for students.
* Farm Programs – helping students understand where food comes from, and bringing fresh seasonal produce into the classroom for tasting.
* Physical Activity Programs – to include all students in a variety of unique activities. * After School Programs – provide healthy snacks and encourage physical activity for children who stay after school.
* Parent Education and Family Events – many varied events at school sites to educate parents and families about the benefits of good nutrition and physical activity.
* Resources for Teachers – standards-based nutrition education materials available to teachers for free check-out from the Nutrition Resource Centers at our Valley office and the East LA MST (Math, Science and Technology Center) office.
* Professional Development – ongoing, creative and developmentally appropriate continued education opportunities for teachers, administrators, food service workers, school nurses and parents.