Food is Fuel!

Author: Sarah Cummins

I’m sure most of you have heard the saying: “Food is Fuel for the Body.”  Here’s the scientific explanation: the food we eat is part of a transfer of energy; nuclear energy, to radiant energy, to chemical energy, to mechanical energy. The chain of energy transfer allows everything on our planet to exist.  And the food that we eat is used as mechanical energy to allow our bodies to grow and “work.”

So, what kind of “fuel” are we going to give our children? 

You can give your child a fuel that is low in caloric value and that gives them a short burst of energy and is soon depleted or you can give them a high quality, super fuel that allows their bodies to move easily, their brains to grow, and their imaginations to soar!


Here are some helpful tips on providing high quality “fuel” in your child’s school lunch:

  • Provide as many whole foods as possible
  • Whole foods are delicious and come from the earth, in one way or another
  • Food shouldn’t have so many ingredients (if I see an ingredient list that has unidentifiable objects or so many ingredients that they have to use more that an article’s worth of commas, I steer clear and try to find a simpler, whole food)
  • For suggestions on great whole foods, visit
  • Eat a rainbow
  • Eating a variety of colors of food helps our bodies get a range of nutrients.
  • It is a fun and visually appealing way for children to be presented with food (why do you think the food industry inundates our kids with brightly colored foods?), but try to limit these to naturally occurring colors (the neon blue of airheads are not naturally occurring, but the beautiful blue of blueberries is)
  • Give choices
  • Let your child make choices by providing several options of healthy lunch foods. You’d be surprised at what they will try and the combinations they make when given a variety of whole foods.
  • If possible, let your child participate or be responsible for packing lunch. Give them a list of requirements (1 protein, 2 veggies, 1 fruit, etc.) and let them decide for themselves!
  • Follow the “Choose My Plate” guidelines
  • The food pyramid has been replaced with a food plate, with an increased amount of vegetables and fruit, and a reduced amount of grains, dairy, and sugar.
  • Try to cut out or reduce sugars, unhealthy fats, soda and other sugary drinks, food additives and dyes.
  • For more information visit
  • Try buying local
  • At Virginia Chance School, we built a learning greenhouse because we care about locally grown, healthy foods. We also care about helping our students learn about the benefits, to our health and to the environment, of growing our own food.
  • Make sure to stop by the VCS Friday Farmer’s Market (look for announcement to be sent home by the Green Team about dates). Thanks to grants from the Whole Kids Foundation and The Farm to School Network, we now have the ability to grow even more food for our students and families.
  • Just get started
  • Challenge yourself to begin your family on this journey.


The food we put into our children’s bodies is an opportunity for physical growth, but also for intellectual growth. Healthy eating education fosters growth in independence and responsibility, growth in the connection our children have with food, growth in the family connection that comes from learning together.

Take advantage of these sites for inspiration and tips:

Packing lunch: there is a better way  to pack. 

Please consider creating a zero waste lunch for your child!  Think about how many plastic bags we would throw away in one child’s lunch for an entire school year (around 180 per child, if they are only using 1 bag.  It grows exponentially from there with more bags and more students).  What about plastic cups?  There is a potential for each student to throw away 900 cups a year (and that’s really not a stretch if they grab a cup every time they are thirsty).  If all of our students did the same, we are talking about 144,000 cups each school year.  It’s hard to imagine that amount of landfill waste! To combat this growing problem, you can buy reusable lunch items that your child can use all year long.  Consider sending them with a reusable water bottle, lunch bag, food containers, snack bags, cloth napkins, and silverware.


Here are links to some great options:


As always, thank you for your effort to improve the health of our students and the environmental sustainability of our school and community!


Sarah Cummins

Director of Environmental Program