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"Nerd Zoomies" with Dr. Jill Joyce, PhD, RD

Updated: May 31


In Tactical Nutrition, a wonderful advocate for and researcher of first responders is Dr. Jill Joyce, PhD, RD. Prior to her work with tactical athletes, she co-authored a paper called, "Impact of child nutrition programs offered in schools on daily nutrition and dietary quality".(1) For a discussion on childhood nutrition for my M.S. in Dietetics, I chose this article because I got the "nerd zoomies" (i.e., super excited about a researcher/research topic I am interested). I met Dr. Jill at the 2023 Tactical Nutrition Summit in San Diego, California when she discussed her research on firefighters. She was kind enough to let me pick her brain while I was working on my M.S. capstone project where I essentially built a class on tactical nutrition at Eastern Michigan University. She is genuinely a great person and dedicated to helping children, firefighters and the nutrition community. 


Now that my nerd zoomies are out of the way, my big takeaway from the Simmons and colleagues article was that school districts everywhere should be promoting and utilizing the School Breakfast Program (SBP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), and After School Snack Program (ASSP) daily to best nourish American children, improve diet quality by promoting an increased consumption of produce, and to aid in risk reduction of chronic medical conditions (e.g., type-2 diabetes, cardiac disease and metabolic disorders) and the all-cause mortality rate. The goal is also to track if the children are becoming better nourished by using the Health Eating Index score trends, What We Eat In America (WWEIA) data, and National Health and NutritionExamination Survey (NHANES) data. Academics are significantly impacted when children are not adequately nourished.


For example, improving dietary quality has been reported to improve mental health status (including improving alertness), reduce the risk of excessive adiposity (i.e., body fat) according to Body Mass Index (BMI) tracking, and improve performance in academics in areas such as English and the sciences. The most exciting takeaway was that improvements have been seen into adulthood, highlighting that childhood dietary quality matters and can set the foundation for building a better community academically and from a societal standpoint. 


Those of us (nutrition experts) advocating for children's nutrition can educate consumers by using social media to discuss the HEI data, WWEIA data, various schools programs, and NHANES data. This will help promote school nutrition programs by bringing awareness to the need for the programs, allowing for increased utilization and improving childhood nutrition on a larger scale. This means dietitians can help at a wider scale by using science and peer-reviewed data!


Schools can educate parents and children about the programs by promoting them in the lunchrooms which can be seen daily, at conferences and even at open house events. They can also send home informative flyers or have an RD (or RDN) educate at a wide (i.e., pep rally) or small scale (i.e., classroom chats), promoting the programs and explaining why nutrition is important to developing minds.


*RD/RDN Call-to-action: Post something this week promoting improving childhood nutrition and how we can help as nutrition professionals (and as parents)! 


Link to the school nutrition article:

Reference:

1. Simmons M, Hildebrand D, Joyce J. Impact of child nutrition programs offered in schools on daily nutrition and dietary quality. CDN. 2022;6:399. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzac054.054

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