Courtesy: CommonThreads

I am lucky enough to spend most of my time around good food. It’s my job and my passion.

Growing up in Los Angeles and cooking at home with my mom had a huge impact on me and started a lifelong love of food. My fondest memories include school lunches that her mother prepared for us. Peanut butter sandwiched between hearty sourdough bread. There were always fruits such as apples and oranges, and sometimes celery and carrots.

My mother was the principal nutritionist for the Las Virgines Unified School District, where I attended. She talked about how tight state budgets were in the 1990s and her early 2000s, worked diligently to keep sugary sodas out of schools, and pushed for salad bars. rice field.

It wasn’t until later in my culinary career that I began to explore more deeply the correlation between nutrition and its impact on overall health.

Today, there is a greater general understanding of how the foods we put into our bodies affect our physical health. There is science behind being hungry. Yet studies show that more than 40% of the calories a child ages 2 to 18 consumes each day are empty or undernourished. Malnutrition can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to concentrate and impair cognitive function. This is very important when it comes to learning in schools and magnifies many of the equity gaps that exist, especially in the most underserved communities.

Additionally, an alarming number of children are diagnosed each year with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health-related problems, making most of them lifelong battles. More than 40% of her seniors and her seventh graders in our state are considered overweight or obese, according to the CDC. Young people living in resource-poor communities are 2.31 times more likely to be affected by obesity than children living in high-income families, and are likely to face greater health problems than their wealthier peers, according to research. is finally shown to be high.

One way to address this gap in nutrition equity is to improve nutrition education in schools.

I have been a chef activist my entire career, raising funds and awareness for many causes. Some of the most important to me are the organizations that make a difference in the future of food. Yes, but this is not a standalone solution that drives lifelong behavioral change.Provide access to healthier eating options combined Incorporating nutrition education into the school curriculum from an early age can equip young people with the knowledge to make better food choices and lead healthier lives.

There is an opportunity for a generational shift to prioritize comprehensive nutrition education in schools to close the nutrition gap in California. There are cost-effective ways to do so. Since 2008, Common Threads has taught more than 130,000 of her Angelenos and provided more than 1.4 million hours of her nutrition education to children, their parents, teachers, and families. Before the pandemic, the organization’s programs existed in more than 200 schools throughout the Los Angeles area, helping young people learn about nutrition, how to cook healthy meals, and the importance of developing healthy eating habits for life. was In many schools, these initiatives complement existing school activities, such as the farm-to-table gardening program at Glenferris Boulevard Elementary School, which encourages students in the heart of LA to develop a hands-on relationship with ingredients. can be built.

Sadly, many of these types of programs were canceled during the pandemic due to school closures. is essential.

Every child growing up in California, a state that is leading in healthy eating, technology, and always ahead of policy, will help every child growing up in California close nutrition gaps and promote inclusive education. It will be a great day to invest in solutions to build Our schools that enable youth and families to make nutritious food choices.

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Elizabeth Faulkner Los Angeles chef, restaurateur and advocate for nutrition equity.

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