Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Food for Thought When Working with Those Hungry for Success


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Arts and Humanities


With all that must be considered when teaching, one rarely thinks of food and its impact on learning. Yet, with technological advances such as fMRIs, the impact of nutritional status on cognition, memory, and learning can now be seen neurologically (Kishiyama et al., 2008; Miller, 2005). This has spurred increasing numbers of studies exploring the impact of micronutrient deficiency on both learning in general and language learning specifically, in both developed and under-developed countries (Bryan et al., 2004; Gewa, et al., 2009; Spencer, 2008;), in the hope of addressing learning needs in all children. Specific to TESOL, Krashen and Brown (2005) discuss an array of external (parental interaction styles, access to print) and internal (nutrition, physiology) factors that can impact language proficiency, which, in turn, impacts test performance in reading and math. Though we, as teachers, have little control over much in our students lives, we can educate ourselves, our students, and their families on the beneficial and detrimental effects of nutrition on learning, and we can work for greater access to high quality, nutrient dense foods reasonably priced and WICS supported at school and in the community. Such help is needed by many immigrants as they adapt to cultural dietary differences (Garcia-Lascurain, et al., 2006) and by migrant families as well (Leon, 1996; Rochin, Santiago, & Dickey, 1989). In order to support teachers, this presentation will first provide foundational knowledge on current research exploring the impact of micronutrients on learning; then explore some current school programs addressing the growing problem of poor nutritional status and its effect on learning; and conclude with ideas for designing healthy meals with readily available ingredients that are culturally appropriate. Students and their families are hungry for success; sometimes, the solution might be on their dinner plates food for thought for teachers. Handouts provided.

Conference Name

"Realizing Transitions"

Conference Location

MSU; Lansing, Michigan

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