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School & Health: Our Nation's Investment
these services address today's new social morbidities that prevent students from achieving at their highest potential, and the extent of the problems may not be recognized. It is estimated that 12 to 20 percent of our nation's children and adolescents suffer from one or more diagnosable mental disorders, and many others are at risk due to violent neighborhoods, parental abuse or neglect, and risky and dangerous behavior (IOM, 1994). In fact, it has been suggested that fully 40 percent of all students are in ''very bad educational shape" and "at risk of failing to fulfill their physical and mental promise" (Hodgkinson, 1993). It is also important to realize that all students—not simply low-income or low-achieving students—are vulnerable to mental and emotional problems. A recent national survey of high-achieving high school students indicated that more than 50 percent report violence at their school, 29 percent have considered committing suicide, 81 percent report that it is easy to get alcohol and 77 percent say alcohol is very common at parties, 25 percent have engaged in sexual intercourse, and 11 percent have tried marijuana. More than 30 percent of these high-achieving students say their home life is less than "happy and close most of the time" (Who's Who Among American High School Students, 1994). Given this context, it has been proposed that counseling, psychological, and social services receive increased emphasis in school reform and restructuring, as an essential "enabling" component to address factors that interfere with students' learning and performance (Adelman, in press).
Nutrition and Foodservice. The school foodservice not only provides nutritious and appealing meals but also helps students develop lifelong healthful eating habits. Evidence shows that dietary behaviors tend to stay constant over time, and poor eating habits established in childhood tend to persist through adulthood (CDC, 1996). A poor diet contributes to the development of four of the nation's ten leading causes of death: coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Other detrimental conditions associated with diet are hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, and poor oral health. Also, the number of overweight children and adults has increased significantly in the last decade, and eating disorders and unsafe weight loss methods have become more prevalent as well.
Nutrition education is critical at all levels, even in early childhood and elementary schools, in order that students develop healthful dietary habits and understand the influence of nutrition on health. Nutrition education should be part of classroom health education, and nutrition should be introduced into other subjects such as science, physical education, and home economics. In providing a variety of nutritious and appealing meals, the school foodservice serves as a laboratory to reinforce the lessons learned in the classroom.