It seems like a pretty basic assumption, but do students that have access to nutritious meals benefit from a higher level of mental health? Countless studies definitively demonstrate a direct link between a student’s academic performance and their level of food insecurity. But, can the child’s wellbeing as a person be separated from the child’s wellbeing as a student?
Per local expert Tanya Hartman, a Ph.D. and Clinical Psychologist in Beachwood, direct links can be found between certain vitamin deficiencies (D & B complex) and a child’s mental health, including outcomes that lead to both depression and anxiety. Additionally, the American Psychological Association finds that children facing regular food scarcity can experience numerous negative outcomes, from suffering levels of “toxic stress” that affect brain development to links with depressive disorders and suicidality in adolescents.
So, although we tend to think of the importance of free school breakfast or lunch programs concerning a child’s performance as a student, it is obvious we should be primarily considering his or her wellbeing holistically as a person. By looking beyond the classroom, the importance of other programs such as WIC, SNAP, and maybe most importantly, Summer Meal services become more prominent. If we are to raise a generation of mentally healthy children, we must obviously feed more than just their minds.