Educators are increasingly being asked to understand students’ needs in a holistic way.
Beyond classroom instruction, there are social and emotional components of learning that schools are weaving into curricula.
And it doesn’t stop there. Like officials across the country, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is paying more attention to the impact of nutrition on education.
Most youth in the United States don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables or whole grains and have too much added sugar in their diets, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We must ensure that nutritional services in the classroom contribute to the development and socialization of children,” said Alice Chung, the district’s director of child development services.
To that end, the district is bringing on a couple consultants to evaluate students and educate their families about obesity, diet and other lifestyle issues.
The consultants’ contracts arrive for Board of Education approval at Wednesday night’s meeting as the district prepares to announce the hiring of its new food services director, Elizabeth Powell.
One of the consultants, Brooke Horn Dekofsky, is expected to work with preschool students and families this school year, Chung said. Her contract is for $50 per hour with a maximum limit of $12,000, according to a district report.
Dekofsky is replacing longtime registered dietitian Dona Richwine, who retired last June. The federally funded Head Start program requires agencies to have a registered dietitian “to ensure that we meet the nutritional needs requirements of each child, including those with special dietary needs and children with disabilities,” Chung said.
Dekofsky will be tasked with assessing new students for nutritional deficiencies, weight issues and dental cavities, Chung said. She will also meet with and guide parents of high-risk children, participate in interdisciplinary SMMUSD meetings and lead nutrition workshops for staff and parents.
Dekofsky earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo in 2008 and received a master’s in public health at UCLA in 2010. She also interned at the Veterans Affairs medical center in West Los Angeles.
Trained in lactation education and perinatal nutrition, Dekofsky believes the early years of children’s lives are crucial for establishing lifelong healthy eating habits. She works for Head Start of California, through which she reviews preschool children’s files to encourage healthy development.
Dekofsky is also certified in diabetes education and has experience in private counseling as well as corporate wellness programming. She teaches a nutritional science class at the for-profit Art Institute in Santa Monica, according to her website.
Meanwhile, the district is also hiring a consultant to assist with implementation of a healthy lifestyles intervention program.
Debra Glasser will work in the health division of the district’s student services department. She will receive up to $2,500 for her work in the district through mid-July, according to an SMMUSD report.
The district’s approach to nutrition goes beyond health. Food is also seen as an avenue to broaden children’s cultural horizons, Chung said.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.