I believe in prioritizing health and wellness programming in our schools because healthy, well-fed, and active kids learn better. When I taught high school Spanish in the Boston Public Schools, I had my students do a poster project that displayed “Comida que me gusta” (“Food I Like”) vs. “Comida que no me gusta” (“Food I don’t like”). As one might expect, many of my students drew pictures of fried foods and candy for foods like they liked, and listed mainly vegetables under “no me gusta.” Though not surprising, the project speaks to the challenges schools face ensuring that students receive the nutrients necessary for healthy bodies and active minds.
Research shows us just how important healthy eating and exercise are for effective learning. Our district is doing great work to promote increased physical activity and nutrition education through additional funding from the PEP Grant, the Somerville Farm to School Project, and strong partnerships with UMass Extension and community groups. To be most effective, nutrition education and appreciation for fresh, local, healthy food must start in the earliest grades, and I will ensure that we continue to focus on this, while also improving the quality of the food we offer in our cafeterias.
The meals our students eat at school may be the only meals some of them eat that day, and the district has an opportunity and responsibility to connect families to inexpensive or free sources of local, healthy food. I will work with the Food Security Coalition to help make this happen.
I also believe that our students benefit from breaks in their day, opportunities to clear their heads, move their bodies, and socialize. I will prioritize unstructured outdoor time (a.k.a. “recess”) so our kids can get outside, increase activity, and better develop socially. This is critical to their brain development and well-being. Again, students learn better when they stay active.