The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Healthy Habits: Live them. Teach them.

Posted in
Eat better

Tuesday, Jun 03, 2014

In light of recent discussions around schools wanting to opt out of healthy school lunch programs, Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, Founder and Chairman of Cooper Aerobics, would like to take a moment to offer his point of view…

Who Says Kids Won’t Eat Fruits and Veggies? Many families face serious health and weight challenges due to lack of proper nutrition and exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that since 1980, the percentage of overweight children ages 6 – 11 has doubled, and the percentage of overweight adolescents ages 12 – 19 has tripled. In addition, less than 25 percent eat enough fruits and vegetables each day.

This past week in Washington, the House Appropriations Committee passed an agriculture budget bill, including nearly $21 billion for child nutrition. However, the bill would allow schools to opt out of White House nutritional guidelines passed in 2012. Allowing schools to opt out of proper nutrition should clearly be off the (school cafeteria) table for discussion.

Ideally, good eating habits should be formed at home and supported throughout the day. Unfortunately, there are not always healthy choices during non school hours and at home. It has taken 60 years and three generations to create an environment that encourages unhealthy behaviors. Therefore, it is necessary for our leaders in the private sector and government to provide the policy, infrastructure, vision, and leadership to give our families healthy options and create a healthy environment. It is not about government control; it is about protecting and investing in our future. Weakening the guidelines for the federal school meal program is not the answer in Texas.

Two significant school policies in Texas clearly provide solutions to encourage our children to eat healthy and support the new guidelines for school meals: (1) every school district in Texas must have a School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) which is composed of parents and community. This powerful oversight advisory is required to make wellness recommendations directly to the Board of Trustees in that school district. (2) Coordinated School Health must be taught in every school district in Texas. This mandated curriculum includes nutrition education.

The local district SHAC can recommend and support the school meals guidelines and increase opportunities for physical activity. This powerful advisory committee can recommend an accountability measure that will ensure that nutrition education and coordinated school health is being implemented at the district and school levels. Children need to know the why and what about healthy eating in order to make informed decisions. Research on how children learn clearly indicates that education and information will empower them to make informed decisions. In addition, opportunities to improve the school cafeteria environment can be made by the SHAC. For example; the SHAC can recommend recess before lunch in order to secure enough time for children to eat and digest their food before returning to afternoon classes. A gentle steering current and oversight is provided by the SHAC. Ask how you can serve on the SHAC in your school district.

Texas school policies are in place to educate and empower our students. Involve, educate, and empower our children about healthy eating. Support of strong school meals standards will impact the next several generations.

There is a relationship between the consumption of healthy foods (fruits & vegetables) and academic achievement. Physical activity coupled with good nutrition is the proven way to maximize learning.

Healthy Habits: Live them. Teach them.