According to Dr. Marcus Weaver-Hightower, with the University of North Dakota College
of Education and Human Development, school lunch is about more than just tater tots and hairnets.Â School food provision is complex, highly political and has implications for everything from health to the environment.Â An article from Weaver-Hightower, is featured in the current issue of Educational Researcher.
Weaver-Hightower, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Foundations and Research at UND, has focused his research on the education of boys, gender theory and the politics and sociology of education.
Weaver-Hightower â€™s article, â€œWhy Education Researchers Should Take School Food Seriously,â€ argues that all who study education should pay attention to what goes on in the school cafeteria or the college dining hall.Â What food is available and how it is grown, delivered, stored, served and eaten has implications for student health and academic success, teacher health and labor, the environment and animals, the cultures of schools, politics and policy, the economy and social justice for kids and communities.
Educational Researcher is the most widely circulated scholarly journal in education.Â It is the flagship journal of the American Educational Research Association, the premier international educational research organization, with more than 25,000 members around the world.Â Every member receives the journal.
â€œOne would think that as important as food is in schools that more education researchers would be paying attention,â€ says Weaver-Hightower. â€œYet we as a field rarely do.Â We focus on testing and reform, forgetting that what–and whether–kids eat can profoundly affect all those things we care about as educators.Â If kids are hungry, theyâ€™re not listening to their math teacher.Â Or, if theyâ€™re hyped up on processed junk food, they wonâ€™t sit still and their brains wonâ€™t work well.â€
Weaver-Hightower says he wrote the article to persuade all researchers of education to think about how food might influence nearly any educational study.
With the help of a New Faculty Scholar Award from UND and funding from the College of Education and Human Development, Weaver-Hightowerâ€™s research has taken him all over the world, including Australia, South Africa, England, and several places in the United States, including rural North Dakota.Â He says that heâ€™s been surprised by the diversity and complexity of what heâ€™s discovered about this seemingly simple part of the school day.
â€œIn England, for instance, theyâ€™ve radically changed their whole school meals system.Â Jamie Oliver did a reality program there before he did his Food Revolution show here in the U.S. last year, and things changed dramatically.â€Â Weaver-Hightower went to England last year and talked with policymakers and advocates, and he says, â€œI even got to be a â€˜dinner ladyâ€™ for a day at an elementary school.Â Having that experience, I think that England shows dramatically what can be done here if weâ€™re willing to invest.Â They now cook almost everything from scratch, use fresh ingredients, and their cooks are well trained.â€
Weaver-Hightower has also used this research experience to co-edit a book with a colleague from the University of Buffalo, Sarah Robert.Â The collection, School Food Politics: The Complex Ecology of Hunger and Feeding in Schools Around the World, is due out from Peter Lang Publishers later this year.Â He also hopes to write a solo-authored book on school food politics over the next few years.
To read his article, see â€œWhy educational researchers should take school food seriously,â€ Educational Researcher, volume 40, issue 1, pages 15-21.
The UND College of Education and Human Development has over 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students in six departments including Counseling Psychology and Community Services; Educational Foundations and Research; Educational Leadership; Physical Education, Exercise Science and Wellness; Social Work; and Teaching and Learning. The mission is fostering healthy human development and learning across the lifespan.
Marcus Weaver-Hightower, Associate Professor
Department of Educational Foundations and Research, University of North Dakota
To read the article in full: http://edr.sagepub.com/content/40/1/15.full