The Network for a Healthy California (Network) is a collaborative effort involving students, teachers, school nurses, administrators, food service professionals, parents, corporate partners and community members. Since 2001, the Network has been able to provide effective learning experiences for thousands of NMUSD students through creativity, planning and solid educational practices.
The Network is changing the way students think about food and exercise. We know from experience that children actually get excited about their health when they are challenged to explore their taste buds, minds and bodies. In the classroom, the planning, preparation and enjoyment of food is easily turned into an educational experience that can be woven into many curricular areas – even math and history!
These nutrition lessons leave the students hungry to learn more, and the next natural step is to explore how the body uses the energy derived from food. Exercise is easily encouraged when it is fun and makes sense.
In 2011/12, more than 9,500 students, grades PreK-12, participated in the Network, integrating nutrition and physical activity into the classroom curriculum.
Why is nutrition education important?
In recent years, several studies have indicated that California is facing a health crisis, and the Network is helping lead the rally cry toward better health for District students.
By starting at a young age, participating NMUSD students learn to adopt healthy habits that will last their lifetime. Currently, 38 percent of California children ages 9 to 11 are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, as revealed by the 2009 California Children’s Healthy Eating and Exercise Practices Survey (CalCHEEPS), a statewide project of the California Department of Public Health. These high levels of obesity can translate into a whole host of health issues. Nutrition education in the classroom is part of the solution.
This is where we come in.
According to recent impact evaluations, the Network is making a difference and changing students’ attitudes and preferences about nutrition and the importance of physical activity. This is a significant accomplishment and important first step in reversing the obesity epidemic our students are facing.
In our program, students learn that a healthy lifestyle – such as eating more fruits and vegetables – is easier than they think and offers many health benefits, including helping fight obesity. By taking just a few simple steps to improve their dietary practices and increase physical activity, they also can help combat serious health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
And the benefits don’t stop there. Studies also show increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables helps kids improve their academic performance and classroom behavior. They can also provide a boost of energy to help fuel an active day.
What are we doing?
Using innovative, hands-on learning techniques, the Network encourages children to experience the many benefits of eating more servings of fruits and vegetables and participating in 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
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. Physical activity is easily encouraged when it is fun and makes sense.
And, we’re encouraging students to take these healthy messages home to their parents as a means of motivating entire families to work toward achieving healthier and more active lifestyles.
Anyone who is concerned about the health, education and future success of children is encouraged to become involved with the Network.
This material was produced by the California Department of Public Health’s Network for a Healthy California with funding from USDA SNAP, known in California as CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps). These institutions are equal opportunity providers and employers. CalFresh provides assistance to low-income households and can help buy nutritious foods for better health. For CalFresh information, call 1-877-847-3663. For important nutrition information, visit www.cachampionsforchange.net.