Despite recent federal reports stating that obesity rates among 2- to 5-year-old children have gone down 43 percent in the past 10 years, the fact remains that over 15 percent of all U.S. children and adolescents are obese, a statistic that’s triple the rate compared to just one generation ago.(1,2) As for adults, one-third of Americans are obese.(3)
That’s why it’s concerning that Fort Thomas Independent Schools in Fort Thomas, Kentucky have opted not to provide its students with healthier lunches as many schools across the country are doing, choosing instead to pile on the fries instead of the extra veggies.(4) The move is eyebrow-raising not only because it’s reinforcing bad eating habits in young children, many of whom already engage in unhealthy diets outside of schools, but because it is a dismissal of the healthier items that are part of the latest recommended federal school lunch standards.(4)
Children Apparently not Enjoying Healthier School Lunches
Still, the school system has opted out of the federal program, deciding to forgo federal dollars that they would have received had they put healthier foods on student’s plates.(5) “The calorie limitations and types of foods that have to be provided…have resulted in the kids just saying ‘I’m not going to eat that,'” says Fort Thomas Superintendent Gene Kirchner.
For those who think that eating a lunch from home can undo the unhealthy consequences of pizza and fries that’s often served as some school lunches, it’s time to reconsider. A study by Tufts University researchers discovered that when parents made their children’s school lunches, none of them met all five National School Lunch Program standards, which focuses on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and low- or nonfat dairy.(6)
What was in their lunch boxes and bags?
Typically, fruit juices, potato chips, cookies and gummy-like snacks were part of the lunches made by parents.(6)
Pros and Cons of Smaller Portions, Healthier Foods for School Lunches
School lunches will likely remain at the center of debate for a while.
Some parents, children and school administrators simply do not like the change or the idea of being forced to eat a certain way. Many students throughout the country have complained that the food looks unappetizing, portions are too small, and that students still feel hungry after eating.(7)
Others are adamant that implementing such federal programs is essential to teaching healthier dietary habits, citing obesity statistics and heath concerns that arise from eating sugary, processed foods.
“We have to change our students and parents mindset about food,” says Harrisburg, Pennsylvania School District Superintendent Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney.(7)
Sources for this article include: