For many decades, schools employed teachers (primarily women) to offer courses in home economics, where students learned about sewing, clothing, textiles, housecleaning, and food – from cookery to nutrition. While the concept is now dated, home economics once served as a pathway into higher education for many women in the early 20th century. By the early 1920s, various social programs and research initiatives started focusing on nutrition and its impact on child development, with many contemporary college and university nutrition programs evolving from earlier home economics programs.
While few elementary schools employ full-time nutrition educators, some school boards employ a nutritionist on a part- or full-time basis to visit schools across the district on a rotating basis. More often than not, however, nutrition at the elementary level is taught as part of the school’s physical education curriculum.
To become an elementary school physical education teacher, one must:
Hold a bachelor’s degree, with a specialization in physical education, where students encounter coursework involving nutrition, as well as personal health and wellness related to school-aged children.
Complete a teacher education program, and undergo a student-teaching experience, which provides valuable hands-on interaction with students at the elementary school level
Become certified and licensed to teach in their state
Although elementary schools do not generally employ nutrition teachers, most schools do hire school nutritionists, which educate children on making healthy food choices. School nutritionists, however, are rarely certified teachers since their primary job is to develop, select or prepare food and food plans for a school environment. To become a school nutritionist, an individual must hold some form of certification from the School Nutrition Association.