Proper nutrition is important to children so as to help them develop mentally, emotionally and physically.  Developmental seasons in one’s life need to be accompanied by proper building blocks.  Not only does this mean that if a child does not receive proper nutrition before a growth spurt, stunting may take place, but it also means that as a child develops mentally and emotionally there needs to be vitamins and nutrients for the body to utilize.  I’ve heard that studies have shown that the B complex vitamins are good for mental and emotional health.  I’ve also heard pediatricians and nutritionists talk about salmon, nuts, beans, blue berries and avocados as being healthy for the brain. Full disclosure here, I’m not a medical doctor.  My terminal degree is in theology and not in anything medically related.  We should always consult a trusted pediatrician for specifics on our child’s diet and not necessarily your friendly neighborhood theologian.  What I can say is that getting proper foods daily are essential for a child’s development and I feel should be one of the most important causes that citizens of Tennessee put resources behind.  My grandmother was born in Jefferson County Tennessee and was a great Southern cook.  When we went over for Sunday dinner there would always be meat, pinto beans, greens, other vegetables, milk and the best corn bread I have ever eaten.  Dessert was always fruit.  She didn’t bake (except cornbread of course).  If we wanted dessert she would say, “Grab an apple; ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’” By the way, she never went to medical school either.  And she didn’t have any training on food groups but knew what kind of variety was needed for men to work all day in the fields and for kids to play all day outside. Especially, us rowdy ones. For a number of years, I was a teacher.  I could see the difference when my students’ parents prioritized healthy eating.  When a student is all day in the classroom tasked with learning then the brain will use more energy than any other organ in the body.  It has been estimated that the brain will use over 20%.  Our students need some good “brain foods.”  Certain foods help with emotions also.  There is a connection between gut health and emotional health.  In ancient language the word for gut, stomach, intestines and emotions are all related.  Here I can speak from extensive graduate studies.  Therefore, even today when someone demonstrates bravery we say, “that took guts.”  Or when something is awful, we may say, “that made me sick down in the pit of my stomach.”  A healthy gut biome will help develop 70-80% of the body’s immune system and even raise the serotonin levels which can help with healthy emotions, help regulate sleep and sometimes even ward off a little crankiness in our kids.  So, what can we do for the kids of Tennessee?  If we have children, we can consult our pediatricians about a good diet for them.  If they don’t eat breakfast at home, we can get them to school on time for any breakfast programs that might be available in the cafeteria.  Sign them up for the national school lunch program if you need to.  Check out the SNAP, CACFP, and SFSP programs at  Parents can do snacks like my mother and grandmother offering nuts, seeds and fruits.  For stubborn kids, give them healthy choices for meals and involve them in meal preparation.  My experience is that if they helped make it, they are more likely to eat it.  Never punish a child by taking away a meal and never punish them for not eating.  Keep mealtime a family time and not punitive in anyway.  Also, don’t use food as a reward or praise them for eating a large amount. And lastly, if the reader is able a monetary gift can be given to the Gives Foundation that helps feed hungry kids.  100% of money given is spent on food for kids.

Written by Gary Brewster

Executive Director