New School Lunch Standards (USA)

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution. I published a similar post, regarding school food and child obesity, last September.

This time by Jacelyn Thomas [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post, especially as schools meals is such a big subject over here in the UK too.

New School Lunch Standards Aim to Reduce Child Obesity, But will it Really Help?

Obesity—it’s an ongoing epidemic that some medical experts argue should be treated as an addiction, just like alcohol and marijuana.  It’s a condition that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $92 billion over the years and has contributed to a plethora of health issues—especially for our younger generation. In fact, childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So who’s to blame for our youth’s rapid weight gain? School cafeteria lunch programs, many argue. It’s no surprise either. Children have access to an array of unhealthy food options for school lunch including greasy pizza, hamburgers, fried chicken tenders, French fries and the new favorite, Flaming Hot Cheetos.

In an effort to get to the root of the problem however, the United States Department of Agriculture finally launched a new initiative last week that will change the standard of school lunches, the first major school meal reform made in 15 years. The push was part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move!  Campaign designed to get children to get healthier.

Under the new standard, public schools are now required to double the amount of fruits and vegetables offered daily as well as offer only whole-grain products and low-fat or fat-free milk. The sodium and trans fat levels will also be reduced. Caloric intake will also be strictly monitored: students in kindergarten through the fifth grade will be limited to an average of 550 to 650 calories for lunch, for example.

“We want the food [children] get in school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables,” Mrs. Obama said in a press release.While Mrs. Obama’s intentions are good, the question still remains: do parents actually feed their children nutritious foods at home? Many studies point to no: families rarely dine together anymore, the fast growing number of single-mothers who are pressed for time resort to take-out or fast food to get a meal on the table, and sometimes lower-socioeconomic families can’t afford healthier food options, so they’ll feed a $1 Hot N Spicy McChicken off the value menu to their child instead.

Not to mention, it’s not like this sort of health conscious movement hasn’t been attempted already—a Los Angeles school district changed its lunch options in late January, offering healthier alternative food choices like wheat pasta, Greek salads and turkey burgers just to name a few. While most faculty members and parents were gun-ho about the changes, according to news reports most of the students find the healthy food options “inedible” and even prompt some children to venture off to the local corner store to smuggle-in chips and other salty snacks. Those who are not as sleuth-ey sometimes just skip lunch all together. So will this mandatory nationwide school lunch reform actually solve anything?

In short, bad eating habits are a choice—those that want to eat poorly are going to find a way to do so. And unless good eating habits are introduced to someone as an infant, reforming school lunches won’t help much—but it is a start. That said, it’s really important parents take the initiative to make some major food changes at home, otherwise the food changes made at school will be ineffective.

Byline:

This is a guest post from Jacelyn Thomas. Jacelyn writes about identity theft for IdentityTheft.net. She can be reached at: jacelyn.thomas @ gmail.com.

Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/5790773819/ 
http://www.flickr.com/people/usdagov/
Thank you for using Creative Commons.

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