Nutrition Affects Early School Success

The first few years of children’s lives are marked by rapid development that is not matched by any other period of life.1 What children eat and its nutritional value contributes to both physical health and cognitive development, influencing their school readiness and academic success.2

Children who eat more nutritious diets are able to concentrate better and think more critically,3 while children who eat unhealthy diets tend to be lethargic and withdrawn4 as well as have inferior immune systems.5 Further, children whose families have faced food insecurity not only perform less well on kindergarten entry math scores, but they also achieve fewer gains in math during their kindergarten year.2 This finding is particularly important for the children of Memphis because 26% of people in our community were food insecure at least once in 2009.6 The attached article, written by Will Gibbons, provides an overview of the findings about nutrition and other health factors that influence children’s kindergarten readiness and discusses practice and policy implications that have shown to positively impact children.

THE TAKE AWAY: We know that school readiness is linked to later academic success, but many Memphis children from low-income homes do not reach kindergarten ready to learn. Recognizing the link between children’s eating habits and early childhood development AND supporting opportunities for children to have regular healthy meals is necessary to ensure brighter futures for our community.


Child Care Aware (2010). Helping Your Child Make Connections: Making the Most of the Brain Gain. Retrieved July 1, 2010 from:

Winicki, J., & Jemison, K. (2003). Food Insecurity and Hunger in the Kindergarten Classroom: Its Effect on Learning and Growth. Contemporary Economic Policy, 21 (2), 145-157. Retrieved from:

Kansas Action for Children (2006). Making Kids Count: Promoting School Readiness through Healthy Children. Retrieved from:

Brown, J., & Pollit, E. (1996). Malnutrition, Poverty, and Intellectual Development. Scientific American, 38-43. Retrieved from:

Currie, J. (2005). Health Disparities and Gaps in School Readiness. The Future of Children 15 (1), 117-138. Retrieved from:

Conley, C. (2010). Going without: Memphis ranks No. 1 in national hunger poll. Commercial Appeal. Retrieved July 2, 2010 from: