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obesity problem and children

School Lunch Program Makes Kids Fat

Research done with government funds finds what most parents already suspect: School lunches are unhealthy and contributing to the childhood-obesity problem.

By Emily Main

tags: CHILD NUTRITION, CHILDHOOD OBESITY



school-lunch-problems-contributing-to-childhood-obesity

Kids who eat school lunches are more likely to be obese by the time they get to grade 3.

As parents gear up for the back-to-school grind, research has uncovered a problem with school lunches: They're making kids fat and contributing to the childhood obesity problem.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Human Resources and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), used data collected by the Department of Education during the 1998–1999 school year, three years after Congress established the current dietary requirements for school lunches. Breakfasts and lunches should contain no more than 30 percent calories from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated fat, and both must contain an age-appropriate number of calories, while supplying certain percentages of vital nutrients, such as calcium and protein. The data on 13,531 students included their weights in both kindergarten and the spring of third grade, and whether they ate school breakfasts, school lunches, or both.

Just over 11 percent of the children were overweight in kindergarten, and 17 percent were overweight by the time they'd reached third grade. While participation in both the breakfast and lunch programs didn't lead to any significant increase in weight, participation in the national school lunch program only was associated with a significant increase in the probability that a child would be obese by the third grade. Participation in the school breakfast program, though, actually led to a decrease in risk.

"Breakfasts seem to be doing well, but lunch, not so much," says the study's lead author, Daniel Millimet, PhD, professor of economics at Southern Methodist University. He adds that kids who participated in breakfast programs tended to be heavier to begin with, and studies have found that eating breakfast helps control calorie intake later in the day. So school breakfasts could be particularly helpful with the obesity problem. "Once you control for the fact that kids who were participating in breakfast programs were heavier to begin with, the [breakfast] program is actually helping to bring their weight down," he says.

Lunches, on the other hand, seemed to be bad all around. In part, that has to do with the fact that schools are not complying with federal guidelines, he says. "There are a couple of times where the USDA has audited schools to see if they are complying with the guidelines, and the evidence points to the fact that they aren't," he says. His study cites evidence from dietitians with the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees the national school lunch program and school breakfast programs, who found that anywhere from 10 to 35 percent of schools did not supply students with low-fat lunches. (In most cases, the breakfasts did comply.) Another part of the problem Millimet suggests has to do with a la carte items, such as ice cream sandwiches and sodas, which are exempted from federal nutrition guidelines because kids pay for them out-of-pocket. These aren't the oft-criticized candies and sodas from vending machines but extra items in the cafeteria that are simply another source of revenue for schools.

Published on: August 30, 2010
Updated on: November 21, 2012



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It seems that everywhere you

It seems that everywhere you go these days you see more and more fat kids. Considering that nearly 1 in 3 children are either overweight or obese today, this is not surprising. This is a serious matter. It is estimated that, in large part due to this vast increase of obesity, the current generation is expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parent's generation.Blood test

I am glad that I found this

I am glad that I found this article, because my friend and I where discussing about this issue a few days ago. I have a daughter that is 9 year old and she has an 7 year old son. She just took her masters in public health online degree and was very concerned about School Lunch Program. Our children are not fat, but it is not only about fat, it is also about how healthy is that food for them. We decided to bring them food packages. I don't know yet if it is the best idea, but I hope this situation will change in the future.

Maybe people with an online

Maybe people with an online leadership degree should take action and change something. Parents should fight more for their kids to get a good education and also good food in school. Why aren't they doing that? I don't understand where this ignorance comes from. Things need to change.

It takes a real-time reader

It takes a real-time reader to elaborate such informative post(s). art degree | social services degree | Social Sciences degree | post graduate course certificate | undergraduate course certificate

I just finished a education

I just finished a education doctorate degree and I was surfing online when I found a website where a guy was talking about how school wants to ban home made food for kids.It is pretty ironic because school food makes them fat.

reply

I agree that obesity is a problem and will surely become one of the worst things affecting the young generation this century. Schools as educational institutions should offer more than counseling to kids and parents. Bans on fast food and healthy school programs are a good step forward. You don't need a criminal justice degree to see that things are not ok the way they are right now and it's also really easy to see who's the blame. Of course we all carry a part of the blame in the end.

goverment food

I work in a high school cafeteria.Our kids have a full salad bar and a lot of healthy choices.We get a lot of goverment granted food.This is not the best quality food so maybe Michelle Obama should start with the companys that supply schools.As far as putting Chef's in schools ,we have 3 .There hands are tied as to what we serve.Schools have budgets to follow and as I see it most schools are in deep dept to state with.I would also like to add that at our school we make a lot of food from scratch and most of the kids don't want to eat that kind of food. They want pizza,fries, burgers ,hot dogs all fast food .So don't blame school lunches for obest kids.It starts at home.

It isn't the lunch.

When we were kids we had a menu that was a lot worse, yet there weren't too many "fat" kids. The difference. We walked to school. After school, we ran around outside. When we were older, we still walked or biked everywhere. Most of us were not allowed to come home and sit in front of the TV or computer. We moved around a lot more and that burned the extra calories.

Many schools today are dropping recess time to focus on test prep. In higher grades, many schools have cut home economics, where students learn how to plan and prepare healthy meals.
I feel that kids should be educated about their diets and allowed to participate in planning. They should be taught how to make good decisions, instead of having all the decisions made for them. If you take away the vending machines, they will just buy the junk outside of school, because haven't learned how to make good choices for themselves. In high school, when I felt I had become a little overweight, I gave up the extra vending machine ice cream bar, without the government having to tell me to do so, because I had learned, in class, that by choosing something else, I could drop the weight, and I did. Exercise should also be encouraged in a positive way- dance classes, swimming, whatever kids enjoy should be made available. Not to say that they shouldn't serve healthy, appealing food in the cafeteria, but to have a lasting impact, real life education needs to happen.

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