Alarmed by the rising obesity rates and the amount of junk food being served to kids at school in his native Great Britain, Oliver met with then-prime minister Tony Blair back in 2005. He issued a challenge: Fix the dismal state of hot lunches. The School Food Trust was born, with its motto, “Eat better. Do better.” By 2008, the British government initiative swapped fried fare for wholesome vegetables, and began providing ongoing training to school kitchen staffs, slowly transforming how British kids eat.
Oliver saw parallels to the United States, with its epidemic of childhood obesity, “the increase of Type 2 diabetes being diagnosed among young adults and even children, and the vending-machine mentality of many school lunchrooms in this country. What we eat affects everything: our mood, behavior, health, growth, even our ability to concentrate,” said Oliver. “A lunchtime school meal should provide a growing child with one-third their daily nutritional intake.”
To drive the point home, this year at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, findings were presented comparing school lunch vs. lunch from home. The results were eye-opening. Compared with kids who brought lunch from home, those who ate school lunches:
* Were more likely to be overweight or obese (38.2% vs. 24.7%)
* Were more likely to eat two or more servings of fatty meats like fried chicken or hot dogs daily (6.2% vs. 1.6%)
* Were more likely to have two or more sugary drinks a day (19% vs. 6.8%)
* Were less likely to eat at least two servings of fruits a day (32.6% vs. 49.4%)
* Were less likely to eat at least two servings of vegetables a day (39.9% vs. 50.3%)
* Had higher levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol
New research funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that children who eat school lunches that are part of the federal government’s National School Lunch Program are more likely to become overweight.
Now, the USDA is partnering with First Lady Michelle Obama to fight this childhood obesity epidemic among America’s school children. The First Lady released the results and recommendations of The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity report, which stated that more than 30 percent of American children, ages 2 to 19, are overweight or obese. The report recommends serving healthier foods in schools.
The National Student Lunch Program supplies meals to about 30 million children in 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools, according to the USDA.
The fact that federally funded school lunches contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic is disconcerting, although not altogether surprising,” said Daniel L. Millimet, whose research expertise is the economics of children, specifically topics related to schooling and health.
Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN, best-selling author of Joy Bauer’s Food Cures: Treat Common Health Concerns, Look Younger and Live Longer, agrees. “Without a doubt, balanced nutrition is key for kids to maintain concentration academically. Every school lunch should offer both complex carbohydrates and lean proteins-a turkey-breast sandwich on whole wheat bread is a simple and perfect example of this — to boost brain and staying power, level moods, and keep blood sugars on an even keel. In other words, a plain bagel, with nothing else, can produce volatile spikes in blood sugars and can set up kids for a crash.”
Have a joyful day everyone. - Rita
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*Written for KidsTerrain.com. Reprinted with permission.