Study: Black kids in city struggle with nutrition, education

Although most children in San Francisco and San Mateo counties are more likely to be healthy, attend preschool and score better on tests than kids in other parts of California, a new county-by-county analysis paints a bleak picture of the well-being of black children growing up in The City.

Just 10 percent of black San Francisco students in grades seven through 11 are proficient at math, compared with 14 percent of black students statewide and 39 percent of all grade-school students in San Francisco, according to a report released this week by Oakland-based nonprofit Children Now. The California average for all children is 28 percent.

In San Mateo County, 18 percent of black students in grades seven though 11 are proficient at math, compared with the county’s average for all students of 38 percent.

The challenges facing black children in San Francisco have changed little in recent decades, according to Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Brown blamed poor quality and dangerous public housing, low incomes and local politicking for the ongoing problems, which he said are concentrated in the Bayview, Western Addition and Ingleside.

“If kids are going to school hungry, if daddy is out on crack not feeding the children and not giving them balanced nutritious meals, then that child is going to be irritable,” Brown said. “We need a Marshall Plan — a comprehensive plan to rebuild the African-American community in this city.”

Ellen Stein, San Francisco’s medical director of maternal and child health, said the problems facing black children stem from economic disadvantages in poor neighborhoods, where fresh produce is hard to buy and transportation is limited.

“The food that’s available to them is fast food that’s high in trans fats and sodas that are high in sugar,” Stein said. “If you’re overweight it’s for two reasons — it’s because you’re eating cheaper food that’s less nutritious, and because you don’t have nice places to do good physical activity.”

Thirty-seven percent of black children in San Francisco are overweight, compared with 34 percent of black children statewide.

In San Mateo, 38 percent of black children are overweight.

To make strides in improving education, San Francisco schools will begin acknowledging that the English spoken by black children at home is different than the English spoken by otherstudents, according to school district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe, as part of the district’s efforts to close the “unacceptable” achievement gap.

“We’re only making incremental improvements,” Blythe said. “We really need to make leaps to serve these students.”

jupton@examiner.com

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