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Will Improving School Lunches Affect Childhood Obesity?

Posted by on Jul. 9, 2010 at 7:13 AM
  • 32 Replies

Will Improving School Lunches Affect Childhood Obesity?

By: Jen Mueller : 7/9/2010 6:16:57 AM

I've done numerous blogs about children and healthy eating. The topic has always interested me, but even more-so now that I have children of my own. Every day we hear statistics about the number of obese children in America and strategies for how to solve this growing problem. I wasn't familiar with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver until a few months ago, when I saw his new show being promoted on network television. I was curious to see if his approach to tackling childhood nutrition and obesity was going to work. Some say "yes", some say "no way".

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution takes place in Huntington, West Virginia, which has been labeled as one of the unhealthiest cities in America. It is based on a program he implemented in England five years ago, which sought to revamp the school lunch system and provide healthier options for kids. For more details on the show, check out 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution': Will It Work?, a dailySpark blog that was written when the show debuted.

England's new health minister, Andrew Lansley, is criticizing the government's attempt to raise the quality of state-funded school lunches as a result of Oliver's campaign. Lansley said that Oliver's experiment actually caused fewer children to eat school meals. More children started packing their lunches, so the schools implemented further controls by determining what foods the children were allowed to bring to school. Parents responded by giving their kids money to buy food outside of school, at local shops. So in the end, if kids wanted to get the junk food instead of having a nutritious meal, they'd have the resources to do it outside of school hours. "There is a risk if we constantly are lecturing people and trying to tell them what to do, we will actually find that we might undermine and be counterproductive in the results that we achieve," said Lansley.

According to the School Fund Trust (a government agency designed to improve children's meals), "There had been a dip in the take-up of school meals following Oliver's television campaign in 2005, but that this was probably because of the publicity the celebrity chef gave to the poor quality of food on offer at the time."

Although I have some reservations about Oliver's program, I applaud his efforts for trying to get things moving in the right direction. Is the school lunch program the best place to start? I think the place we really need to start is with parents, educating them, and creating behavior change for the whole family. Then good choices will naturally follow. If a healthy school lunch is offered, but parents give the child money to buy something else so they don't have to eat the school meal, that's not teaching anyone how to change. But does that mean that school lunch improvements aren't worth the effort?

What do you think? Is a program like Oliver's a good idea, better than nothing, or a waste of time? If it's not a good idea, what is your proposal for tackling the issue of childhood obesity?



by on Jul. 9, 2010 at 7:13 AM
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Replies (1-10):
studying1
by on Jul. 9, 2010 at 7:16 AM

well obesity is an issue here in australia and in usa.  i thought i read somewhere that the government had put directives into place that schools have to do better food for the kids.  the jamie oliver series starts here next week and i think it will work there.  got to give something a go.  i know when i was there last year, i couldn't understand all the complaints about obesity when all the food/drinks are huge sizes compared to what we have here in australia.  cut down the food sizes to reasonable and then perhaps obesity will reduce.

ziff130
by on Jul. 9, 2010 at 7:16 AM

I really like what he is doing. He is trying to substitute processed food for fresh foods. He was talking to the principle of one of the schools in an interview and they were talking about money. The principle is right, if they can't lower the prices of fresh foods then America won't be able to buy them. Most Americans just can't afford fresh foods and end up buying a lot of processed foods. We have to make our own sacrifices w/ health b/c of money and it's incredibly frustrating. I do hope that he is able to make a difference b/c that would be absolutely awesome! :)

ziff130
by on Jul. 9, 2010 at 7:23 AM


Quoting studying1:

well obesity is an issue here in australia and in usa.  i thought i read somewhere that the government had put directives into place that schools have to do better food for the kids.  the jamie oliver series starts here next week and i think it will work there.  got to give something a go.  i know when i was there last year, i couldn't understand all the complaints about obesity when all the food/drinks are huge sizes compared to what we have here in australia.  cut down the food sizes to reasonable and then perhaps obesity will reduce.

I agree. At home, I don't serve food on dinner places, I pass out salad plates to help w/ the serving sizes. Also, I order child plates when I can and if not then dh and I normally split a meal. They are HUGE!! I totally agree with this. :)

evansmommy03
by on Jul. 9, 2010 at 9:18 AM

I think making school lunches with healthy fresh foods is a good start in the right direction.  The problem I see is most parents are not on board.  I am all for it I pack my sons lunch so he is not getting all that junk at school. Some parents do not see anything wrong with the flavored milk they are just glad the kids are drinking milk and they don't seem to care/understand it is as bad as a can of soda!  The parents have to be on board before any change can really happen which I think will be way more difficult than reform in the schools.

ziff130
by on Jul. 9, 2010 at 10:56 AM

I know... I just don't understand why parents are against healthy food. That just doesn't make any sense to me.

Quoting evansmommy03:

I think making school lunches with healthy fresh foods is a good start in the right direction.  The problem I see is most parents are not on board.  I am all for it I pack my sons lunch so he is not getting all that junk at school. Some parents do not see anything wrong with the flavored milk they are just glad the kids are drinking milk and they don't seem to care/understand it is as bad as a can of soda!  The parents have to be on board before any change can really happen which I think will be way more difficult than reform in the schools.


smurfy88
by Jessica on Jul. 9, 2010 at 12:08 PM

I think healthy school lunches would be a great start because right now hot lunch at school is just junk on a tray!

JenBrooks76
by on Jul. 9, 2010 at 12:34 PM

I commend Jamie Oliver for his efforts, but in the long run it is the parents that need to be the example for the children. What kids see their parents eat is what they want to eat...healthy or not. Introducing healthier lunches at school after those formative years for those kids that are used to their bad food habits is kind of like closing the barn door after the horse has already left...

evwsquared
by on Jul. 9, 2010 at 3:52 PM

This is akin to Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard project. Through the Chez Panisse Foundation, they have implemented a program in the Berkeley Public School District to reform the lunch program, but different than Oliver, they are having academics at UC Berkeley do a three-year study on how the program has an impact upon students' attidutes, behaviors, and knowledge about food. Here are some results:

School Lunch Initiative
2006-2007 Program Highlights
In 2004, the Chez Panisse Foundation, the Center for Ecoliteracy and the Berkeley Unified School District launched the School Lunch Initiative. The goal of the School Lunch Initiative is to
change what all of the students in Berkeley public schools eat for lunch every day and transform
the way children are educated about food, health, and the environment. The following highlights
the Foundation’s main achievements, challenges, and lessons learned in the past year.

Achievements
• The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) is now 100 percent transfat and high
fructose corn syrup free.
• The central kitchen uses all fresh whole produce, as opposed to frozen, pre-cut vegetables.
• All 16 schools have a salad bar featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables.
• All 16 schools have Universal Breakfast, offered at no-cost to all students regardless of
household income.
• 12 out of 16 schools use a buffet service for meals, rather than serving lunch in
prepackaged, plastic-wrapped disposable trays.
• Organic milk from Humboldt County is being served at lunch in all schools as of
September 2007.
• BUSD began purchasing produce directly from local farms, including Full Belly and River
Dog organic farms.
• All kitchens are composting and recycling.
• BUSD opened a healthy snack shop at Berkeley High School that serves freshly cooked
soup or chili in a bread bowl; bagels and cream cheese; yogurt smoothies and parfaits; Clif,
Luna and ZBars; soy milk, Smart Water and Knudsen Spritzers.
• Year one of the School Lunch Initiative evaluation was completed. The Center for
Weight and Health at UC Berkeley collected baseline data and surpassed the initial target
of 75% participant consent by receiving 80% consent from all 4th and 5th graders in the
schools surveyed.

If you're interested, they also identify their challenges and lessons learned. Here's the Berkeley Public School District's School Lunch Initiative program website (a little outdated) and the School District's Nutrition Program website.

Not only is this program good for our children, it is good for our local economy, as they source their products and ingredients locally. They don't buy bread from a thousand miles away, they buy it from 2 miles away. People in our community are getting paid for feeding the community good, wholesome food.

acr42685
by on Jul. 10, 2010 at 8:02 AM

I think childhood obesity is because kids nowadays sit around and play video games and stay on the computer all the time.  I mean really was there that big of an epidemic when we were young?  Not in my area.  Because we went outside and PLAYED!!  We had chicken nuggets, tacos, cookies, brownies, ...god forbid chocolate milk.  All of that.  Most kids weren't fat.  This was because we PLAYED outside in the fresh air.  There were no computers or endless television channels to surf.  

DestMasters
by on Jul. 10, 2010 at 8:20 AM

 I agree with this......to a point.  Kids aren't active enough these days.  However, there are also different additives and garbage added to foods to "enhance" shelf-life, flavor, etc.  I think all those things put together have a LOT to do with it

Quoting acr42685:

I think childhood obesity is because kids nowadays sit around and play video games and stay on the computer all the time.  I mean really was there that big of an epidemic when we were young?  Not in my area.  Because we went outside and PLAYED!!  We had chicken nuggets, tacos, cookies, brownies, ...god forbid chocolate milk.  All of that.  Most kids weren't fat.  This was because we PLAYED outside in the fresh air.  There were no computers or endless television channels to surf.  

 

~Destiny


Listen to your body. It will tell you all you need to know.
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