On Hunger and Malnutrition Issues for School-Age Children

Little attention has been paid to the health and nutrition status of school-age children. Data, however, are adequate enough to identify several widespread problems among them that have well established negative consequences for their school participation and performance. These may include chronic protein-energy malnutrition, iron-deficiency anemia, iodine deficiency, injury/poisoning and substance abuse.

One of the most significant continuing problem facing school officials and education planners in developing countries (such as the Philippines) are children’s failure to learn adequately while at school.

Whether performance is judged against local or national standards a significant proportion of school children in these countries are failing to acquire the minimal literacy and numeracy skills that are central goals of the school system and, even more important, that are necessary for them to succeed in their later economic social and parental roles. Although there are many factors that may contribute to failure to learn, there is growing evidence that poor health and nutrition can be important determinants of both the attendance and the teachability of students and, thus, have a significant effect on learning success.

What can parents do?

Here are ten key rules to live by:

  1. Parents control the supply lines. You decide which foods to buy and when to serve them. Though kids will pester their parents for less nutritious foods, adults should be in charge when deciding which foods are regularly stocked in the house. Kids won't go hungry. They'll eat what's available in the cupboard and fridge at home. If their favorite snack isn't all that nutritious, you can still buy it once in a while so they don't feel deprived.
  2. From the foods you offer, kids get to choose what they will eat or whether to eat at all. Kids need to have some say in the matter. Schedule regular meal and snack times. From the selections you offer, let them choose what to eat and how much of it they want. This may seem like a little too much freedom. But if you follow step 1, your kids will be choosing only from the foods you buy and serve.
  3. Quit the "clean-plate club." Let kids stop eating when they feel they've had enough. Lots of parents grew up under the clean-plate rule, but that approach doesn't help kids listen to their own bodies when they feel full. When kids notice and respond to feelings of fullness, they're less likely to overeat.
  4. Start them young. Food preferences are developed early in life, so offer variety. Likes and dislikes begin forming even when kids are babies. You may need to serve a new food on several different occasions for a child to accept it. Don't force a child to eat, but offer a few bites. With older kids, ask them to try one bite.
  5. Rewrite the kids' menu. Who says kids only want to eat hot dogs, pizza, burgers, and macaroni and cheese? When eating out, let your kids try new foods and they might surprise you with their willingness to experiment. You can start by letting them try a little of whatever you ordered or ordering an appetizer for them to try.
  6. Drink calories count. Soda and other sweetened drinks add extra calories and get in the way of good nutrition. Water and milk are the best drinks for kids. Juice is fine when it's 100%, but kids don't need much of it — 4 to 6 ounces a day is enough for preschoolers.
  7. Put sweets in their place. Occasional sweets are fine, but don't turn dessert into the main reason for eating dinner. When dessert is the prize for eating dinner, kids naturally place more value on the cupcake than the broccoli. Try to stay neutral about foods.
  8. Food is not love. Find better ways to say "I love you." When foods are used to reward kids and show affection, they may start using food to cope with stress or other emotions. Offer hugs, praise, and attention instead of food treats.
  9. Kids do as you do. Be a role model and eat healthy yourself. When trying to teach good eating habits, try to set the best example possible. Choose nutritious snacks, eat at the table, and don't skip meals.
  10. Limit TV and computer time. When you do, you'll avoid mindless snacking and encourage activity. Research has shown that kids who cut down on TV. Watching also reduced their percentage of body fat. When TV and computer time are limited, they'll find more active things to do. And limiting "screen time" means you'll have more time to be active together.

Responding to the call of the World Health Organization, DECS, and National Council of Nutrition, Saint Francis of Assisi College joins all schools and educational planners in the entire country to celebrate the Nutrition Month. No less than Dr. Arturo O. Orosco, Jr., Ph.D., SFAC President, compelled all the school’s canteens to fully comply with their directives to offer only healthy and nutritious meals and to stop the vending of soft drinks and junk foods.



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