Food for thought for a successful school year


Published: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at 11:26 a.m.
We all know that the first classroom in a child's life is the home with parents - mom and dad/guardian - considered the first teachers.
The Latin phrase that describes the parent's role as teacher (or vice versa) is "In loco Prentis," commonly used throughout the academic world. The parent's responsibility of teaching their child covers a lot of territory in the early development of a child's life. This brings me to my point: A healthy body produces a healthy mind.
Recently, I had the rare pleasure of having lunch in the Oaks Mall at the food court. Being the people watcher that I am, I noticed four beautiful young teenage girls waiting in line to order food. All four girls ordered identical foods, double orders of hamburgers, fries and drinks.
In addition, two of the girls had pies on their trays. When reading this article one would automatically assume "What is the problem?" As the commercial says, "you've got to eat."
To properly address my concerns for the girls would definitely not fall in the category as the most popular subject to write about. I definitely will not win any prizes for bringing up this topic of overweight children.
However, I thought about my own upbringing in my parent's home and how they encouraged us to eat healthy foods, which included a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. A variety of green veggies were always a part of our daily diet with a balanced diet of other food groups as well.
Both parents insisted on healthy eating in our home, and so did my wife and I as we raised our two sons. Eating healthy was always taught to us as children because my parents knew of the health benefits of nutritious eating. With the right amount of exercise and diet one can produce a healthy body and mind.
Research has proven that diet is directly linked to how we learn, and the performance of young children in our schools. Our nation has recognized this fact, and has begun to address concerns of providing healthier meals in our school cafeterias.
The fast food industry has made it so convenient for American families to eat on the run and no one really has paid attention until now.
We are seeing major health issues in our youth and certainly there is a direct link to the lack of student achievement. It appears that students who consume a large portion of carbohydrates, sugar and also caffeine tend to loose concentration quickly and show off-task behavior.
The foods that we see our children attracted to are French fries, hamburgers, pizza, breaded foods, cakes, cookies, pies, candy and carbonated soft drinks in large proportions.
We are discovering in the schools that teenagers particularly are eating these types of foods daily, throughout the day, and the consequences are devastating. Studies indicate overweight children are more than likely to be overweight adults.
Eating habits are determined at a very early age in our children's lives and as parents we must look out for their welfare and future. In a recent report, among minorities, one third of our population is overweight. We must begin to wage war on obesity.
The girls I saw in the mall were tremendously overweight, even to the point that their weight had a great effect on their physical movement.
Two of the girls were dangerously overweight and breathing appeared difficult for them. The risk factors in health issues are inevitable if weight gain is not managed early in their lives.
Since we are approaching the summer months, which seems to be a time when people tend to want to lose weight and tone themselves, this also might be the time for parents to educate themselves and the children on the benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise.
For children to experience obesity at such early ages in their lives is oh so dangerous and stifling to their minds, not to mention the ridicule they receive from their peers.
This one deflating form of harassment destroys ones self-esteem when faced in the throws of less generous expressions of individuality. The consequence can often be disastrous.
A challenge for all of us this summer would be to monitor our eating habits, exercise and develop a plan and routine to address proper health habits for the future.
Parents and students, let's get a head start on the fall opening of school by practicing self-control and eating the proper diet.
Remember, "The mind (and body) is a terrible thing to waste,'' and we should all be our brother's keeper and encourage each other to live healthier lives.
Philoron Wright is assistant to the superintendent of community and schools for Alachua County Public Schools.

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