School lunches and childhood obesity
Do you know what's on your child's lunch tray at school?
Parents in recent years have been surprised to find pizza sauce being counted as a vegetable and junk food masquerading as a healthy snack, but change is starting to happen.
The National School Lunch Program was started 65 years ago to make sure children are nourished and can get through the school day on a full stomach.
While the program now serves 30 million children nationwide at a low or no cost, it's also become increasingly criticized for the quality of foods offered and is being partially blamed for the rise in childhood obesity, especially in low-income children.
Taking action on school lunches and childhood obesityIn 2012, the USDA called for more nutritious ingredients in school lunches, including more fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk and whole grains. It also urged limits on trans fats and high-calorie foods.
Parents in some states have pushed for laws requiring healthier school meals and more stringent nutritional standards—and it's making a difference.
- Children in schools with more stringent nutritional standards had a healthier weight status.
- The rates of obesity were much lower in states that exceeded the USDA nutritional requirements.
- Rates of obesity were doubled among students who ate reduced and free school lunches (26%) compared to students who didn't eat school lunches (13%).
What you can doIf you're unhappy with what your school is offering, speak up! You never know what kind of change you can make until you try. You can also pack a healthy, nutritious bag lunch for your child if the school lunches provided don't meet your personal standards for your child.
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