Nutrition paramount to child#8217;s development

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Throughout my career in public service, I have worked hard to leave a positive legacy for our children and grandchildren.

Ever since my days as mayor of Cleveland I’ve focused on enriching the whole child — not just report cards, but everything that encompasses the overall nutrition and wellness of Ohio’s kids.

The effects of poor nutrition during childhood can be devastating. Research has shown that its effects to cognitive ability and the behavior of children can be both immediate and permanent.

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In early childhood, poor nutrition can lead to delayed physical growth and motor development, lower IQ points and magnified threat of disease.

When I was governor of Ohio, one of my top priorities was the Head Start program — the early childhood development program that began in 1965. I committed to do everything in my power to assure that every Ohio child was healthy and prepared, not just for school, but for life itself.

The Head Start program provides ongoing nutrition classes to participating families to educate them about the importance of nutrition and show them how to offer nutritious food choices for their families. During my tenure as governor, Ohio became the national leader, with 90 percent of eligible children being served through Head Start.

As children go off to school, nutrition is no less important. Children learn best when they are well-fed and eat healthy foods.

Studies have shown that kids who go hungry are at a greater risk for developing behavioral problems and deficient social skills at school. They have decreased attention spans and lower educational achievements.

All of this leads to what many parents primarily focus on — poorer results when it comes to grades and learning.

Current USDA regulations limiting the sale of unhealthy foods in school settings are limited and have not been redefined in close to 30 years. We have made great strides in the area of food and health science and, to truly give our children the best care possible, we need to implement those standards into our public schools.

That is why I recently co-sponsored S. 711, the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act. This legislation requires the Secretary of Agriculture to revise what qualifies as unhealthy food to bring it inline with current thinking in nutritional science.

Just like you, I count my family as the greatest gift in my life. And over the years I have learned that keeping our children healthy is a critical component to them leading healthy and productive lives.

By promoting healthy eating and nutrition during the most impressionable years, we will give our children and grandchildren the gift of good health — one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Sen. George Voinovich is a member of the U.S. Senate and represents Ohio.