SMALL CHILD, BIG CAFETERIA: REALIZING POTENTIAL AND NECESSARY NUTRITIONAL RIGHTS FOR EARLY ELEMENTARY CHILDREN
Driscoll, Kathryn Jane
White, Gladys B.
Since the institution of the National School Lunch Program in 1946, American society has centered much of its research and practice for childhood nutrition on school lunch programs. However, the autonomy of the child and the basic education of nutrition building skills are often peripheral. This thesis will identify reasoning for the child's right to autonomy in food choice as well as justify a greater need for nutrition education. A look into childhood development studies will expose the ability of informed decision-making skills in the early elementary ages.The development and analysis of children's rights and participation with food choice begins with an examination into the complexity of rights and their role on school grounds. The thesis continues, covering the history of food and government policy, particularly school lunch programs since the turn of the 20th Century. There is then an investigation of what is served in schools and a consideration of successful nutritional programs and revised meals, further exposing perceived complexities that schools can overcome. Finally, a study of child development during this period (children in grades K-3) supports the theory presented that children are capable of making smart decisions and understanding what proper and healthy eating means. Studies of monumental court cases, several historical examples of media's impact and a personal interview with a school wellness professional are used to emphasize several of the findings to support this topic.The history of school food politics and nutritional trends alongside child development and ethics proves that children are both competent and capable to make smart food choices. Conclusions show that it is most ethical to educate children on nutrition, both on food and well-being, and to allow children to control their decisions and learn the best practices. This thesis, by means of historical references and measures of children's rights, proves that by the time children are eating and purchasing school lunches, they are also suitable to make smart decisions. Policies based on health education as well as close studies of child development and ethical standards will produce the most effective means to healthy children in schools.
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