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Report: Nutrition impacts on Learning

Press Release Date 24 May 2006

The kids are so much easier to teach.

If an army marches on its stomach; kiwi kids’ learn on theirs, according to new research published by the Obesity Action Coalition

The report that will be released at the Agencies for Nutrition Action Nutrition and Physical Activity Forum in Invercargill on Thursday reviews the research on how children’s eating affects their school performance.

The researchers found strong and consistent evidence that school attendance and classroom behaviour improve when undernourished children eat healthier food.

The research shows when classroom nutrition lessons are backed up by school policies that encourage healthy food to be eaten at school and the school involves the whole school community in the talk about healthy food children eat and learn better not only in the short term but into the future as well.

“Teachers in schools that have introduced healthy food policies and got rid of the high energy, low nutrient foods like soft drinks, lollies, chippies and fatty fried foods from their canteens repeatedly say that when children eat good food at school they are easier to teach. The scientific evidence supports what these teachers say,” says Celia Murphy executive Director of OAC.

“Improving the food eaten during school hours has the dual effect of increasing nutrient intake and decreasing energy intake,” says Celia Murphy.

“People assume overweight and obese children will be getting enough of the nutrients necessary to keep them healthy but overweight and obesity can be symptoms of poor diet. Foods high in energy don’t always have enough vitamins and minerals and overweight children are more likely to be undernourished. Being undernourished may contribute to some children underachieving at school.”

There are children in New Zealand who do not get enough of the essential nutrients to be able to concentrate and learn well at school. Children from the most deprived families are those most likely to be overweight, to be eating a diet that is not adequate in all nutrients and to be at risk of underachieving at school.

“Schools can help not only the health of their students by improving the food eaten at school but this will likely make their job of teaching the children easier too.”

The New Zealand Government’s School Strategy 2005 – 2010 sets a goal of “All students achieving their potential.”

“There is a group of children in New Zealand that would have a better chance of reaching their potential if their school introduced healthy eating policies and linked these into the classroom lessons on health and nutrition,” say Ms Murphy.

OAC believes all schools should be required to implement healthy food policies and to get rid of unhealthy food.


See... Report Executive Summary

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