Friday, April 8, 2011

April is National Minority Health Month

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office on Minority Health is again sponsoring National Minority Health Month in April. This year's focus is on Minority Health and School Food. According to the OMH, in Fiscal Year 2009 more than 31.3 million children a day received lunch through the National School Lunch Program with about 11.1 million participating in breakfast each day, according to the Food Research and Action Center. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2005, 41 percent of 4th graders were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Only 24 percent of White 4th graders were eligible, while 70 percent of Black and 73 percent of Hispanic students qualified. Eligible as well were 65 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native and 33 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander 4th graders. 

Minorities participate in great numbers in the school lunch program, and some school districts have devised ways to extend the food service over the summer to guarantee that lower income children have access to at least one full meal per day. Minority children are also particularly hard hit by obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes. Therefore, school food is a critical social determinant of the health of minority children. school meals could and should be also a great teachable moment, a pathway to a lifelong education on healthy eating and the environmental impact of our food choices. And we should not forget the link between good nutrition and ability to perform well academically, which has something to do with the persistence of the achievement gap.

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