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Myth: School food is making kids obese

Posted Jul 16 2012 9:00am

TRUTH:  While obesity among adults has doubled in recent years, obesity among children has tripled.  Many attribute poor quality school food (including breakfast, lunch, snacks and vending machines) as one of the major contributing factors to this rise in obesity rates.

When I was in elementary, middle and some of high school, I ate school lunches and I remember them being terrible.  I’m sure we all do.  Footlong hot dogs and cold, tasteless pizza were among the regular offerings.  But, studies suggests that while the food may be unappetizing, it’s not the obesity culprit.  Researchers have found no significant correlation between consuming school food and higher weight gain than their packed-lunch peers.

That’s not to say that school food is healthy.  In most districts, the food isn’t fresh – most schools don’t even have fully functional kitchens!  But, research about children’s weight is indicative of a greater problem.  Outside school (at home, at afterschool programs, or in other settings) is where children consume excess calories.

As role models and educators, adults (and school districts) should practice what they preach; ‘do as I say and as I do’.  So, if we’re telling kids in science class that they should choose an apple instead of an apple pie, let’s make that the easy choice in the lunchroom too.

BOTTOM LINE:  School lunches aren’t healthy but they’re not responsible for soaring obesity rates in children either.  Food choices outside of school have a greater impact on weight – so parents need to take responsibility and action to improve home food environments.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  1. Time Healthland: Is School Lunch Making your Kids Fat?
  2. Tampa Bay Online (written by an RD specializing in feeding children): Face it, mes amis, It’s up to Parents to Feed Kids Right
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