Fort Mill Times

Our opinion: Schools addressing nutrition issues

We all have to eat.

Without food and water, all living things eventually cease to exist. For many of us, however, food is more than just fuel. From a favorite dish that provides comfort when needed, to annual holiday meals and food picked specifically to aid athletic performance or cure disease, much thought goes into what some people eat.

Not so much when it comes to adolescents. For the first few years of a child’s life, he or she typically eats what’s placed in front of them. By the time elementary school comes around, kids get the added responsibility of making choices. By then, many have developed unhealthy eating habits centered on sweets and fast food that are the gateway to obesity, heart disease and other avoidable health problems.

That’s why schools across the country have put a greater emphasis on teaching students about nutrition and offering healthier options in the cafeteria. Locally, schools are stepping up their game. Indian Land students recently had a visit from a professional nutrition practitioner who demonstrated cooking techniques, and in Fort Mill, the district is deep into a program to introduce healthier meals.

In Fort Mill, where students are part of the behind the scenes team that decides what changes to make, it involves some trial and error. After a couple years of field testing, the district learned that kids will go for a healthier chicken tender made with whole grain breading, but will generally pass on Greek yogurt and veggie wraps. Still, progress is being made and that’s what’s important. Going forward, the district is working on a partnership with local farms that should provide added value in purchasing, not to mention nutrition and food education.

Fort Mill is also one of the region’s districts that hosts a summer nutrition program. Underwritten by the USDA, the program provides lunch and tutoring to any student registered to participate. This is not only a lifeline for some low income students, but a good opportunity to help reinforce the lessons that food plays a more important role in our lives than kids may realize.

It might take a while for these efforts to yield life-changing results, but it’s good to see schools have made it a priority.