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Will Improving School Lunches Affect Childhood Obesity?

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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
Replies (31-32):
by on Jul. 16, 2010 at 7:42 PM

I think schools are doing better then what they were.  I know out here they took out all of the soda machines, took the candy and fast food type things out of the schools.  So, in some regards they are doing better.  But, I agree, kids are more influenced at home then anywhere else.

by on Jul. 18, 2010 at 12:13 PM

I was thinking about this today, and on top of school foods not being as healthy as they could be, they also don't offer much.  I remember I could choose what to eat out of several options and there were some days I only had a single slice of pizza (which I paid $2 for).  I could do the regular school lunch, but even that was a lot of times just some kind of meat, mashed potatoes (fake) and gravy, and a roll.  Not the kind of meal that's going to fuel my brain for the rest of the school day.  You know?  I just think they could do a whole make over and improve all of their foods.

On the other side my dh always took lunch and he told me he'd have some kind of sandwich with green leaf lettuce, half of a red bell pepper, carrot sticks, some kind of fruit, granola or almonds and raisins, cheese, and sometimes a home oatmeal cookie.  Sounds lots better to me than what I had. lol.  Lots more food, but all the options are all healthier and will fuel your brain for the rest of the school day.

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