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Ole Miss faculty provide ‘Fuel to Learn’ for Mississippi students

The “Fuel to Learn” project, an initiative from the Mississippi Center for Obesity Research at the UM Medical Center in Jackson, has North Mississippi fourth-graders up and moving.

Led by Ole Miss faculty, including Melinda Valliant and Kathy Knight of the School of Applied Sciences and Alicia Stapp of the School of Education, “Fuel to Learn” is a pilot program that allows educators to teach a math or language arts skills while also learning about healthy eating.

“The vision is that this will become a statewide curriculum,” Stapp said in a recent news release. “We are starting this very, very small, which is how we want to start, but we hope to have a regional presence and then a statewide presence. We see no reason why there can’t be a curriculum for the whole state.”

The lessons are centered on five “key messages”: hydration, portion size, fruits and vegetables, dairy and healthy snacks. Thirteen teachers are participating in the pilot program, which includes 10 lessons in math and 10 in language arts. Each teacher received a kit of teaching materials for their classrooms as well.

Each lesson is aligned with Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards as well as learning objectives in individual subject areas. According to a statement from the University, developers hope that besides helping students learn, an increased literacy in nutrition will improve long-term educational outcomes.

“The relationship between academic performance and diet cannot be understated,” said Knight, an associate professor of nutrition. “Most of the beginning research in this area started in the ’60s and ’70s and showed that children who were malnourished did not learn as well (as children who were).”