The importance of food literacy

by Rose Sarner* (Guest Blogger)

“It’s one thing to provide people with food and it’s another to teach food literacy.” According to Fast Company, in 2021, “54 million Americans do not have access to healthy food,” and according to NPR, “80 percent of Americans fail to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.”  

Healthful food and its many benefits are not an everyday reality for many families in the world. Here in the United States, young kids, teens, and adults have little knowledge about the foods they are putting into their bodies, where the food is coming from, or how different foods affect their overall health. The programs that are in place that are supposed to “educate” Americans are not engaging, clear, or very informative and this failing has contributed to the current health and obesity crisis in the United States. Making health sustainable is a multifaceted issue that has many layers. Many individuals fall short of taking care of their health issues because they do not know how to make a life switch and sustain their progress. 

Our schools can play an important role in changing dietary habits by educating students on food literacy.  According to The Centers for Disease and Prevention, “US students receive less than 8 hours of required nutrition education each school year, which is far below the 40–50 hours that are needed to affect behavior change.” Additionally, educators are encouraged to teach nutritional education classes at schools; however, given the important role a person’s consumption of healthy foods has in preventing chronic diseases and supporting good health, ideally, educators would provide students with more hours of nutritional instruction. Research has proven a connection between healthy diets and one’s emotional well-being, and how emotions may influence eating habits (The Centers for Disease and Prevention). Due to the large number of required classes in many schools across the country, administrators and teachers should consider ways to integrate nutrition education into their existing curriculums.  

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Addressing Student Food Insecurity with a SNAP

by Kyle Winterboer*

As students return to in-person school, it is an important time to revisit the issue of food insecurity across America’s educational system. Particularly in Higher Education, recent studies suggest student food insecurity levels had reached as high as 38% in Spring 2020 and 5.8 of every 10 students experienced some form of basic needs insecurity. These rates have dramatically increased throughout the duration of the pandemic because students sent home for lock-down no longer had access to the already limited forms of support available in person on campuses.

A common tool used to fight food insecurity is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Despite its successes in reducing hunger and the economic benefits the program introduces to stimulate local economies, SNAP has many limitations and needs reform to better address food insecurity. One such limitation is that policy makers have long denied students access to SNAP. While the past decade has brought some expansions to grant students access, significant barriers remain. Barriers include restrictive student eligibility criteria and mixed messaging that leaves students misinformed of their eligibility. This policy failure leaves students hungry, many of whom would otherwise be eligible for aid if they were not pursuing higher education.

To show the real human impacts of these policy failings, journalist Alejandra Salgado details student stories in an article that appeared in CalMatters and was shared by Civil Eats: Colleges Rush to Sign Students Up for Food Aid, as Pandemic Rules Make More Eligible | Civil Eats

To provide additional context to the policies described in Salgado’s reporting, the below contains insights from Resnick Center Research Assistant Kyle Winterboer in this policy area. This research comes from his time with the student led research advocacy group “unBox”, the assistance of the UCLA CalFresh Initiative, his own application process amidst the pandemic, and from his time implementing a little known policy solution across UCLA departments to better support students in their SNAP applications.

The Resnick Center thanks the unBox Project and the UCLA CalFresh Initiative for readily sharing information for this report, and their continued dedication to the mission of ensuring equitable access to food for all.

Continue reading “Addressing Student Food Insecurity with a SNAP”

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