For many years, pediatricians, nutritionists, demographers and experts in all sorts of fields have been concerned about the rising rates of childhood obesity. Recently, professionals and celebrities alike (including the fantastic Michelle Obama) have emphasized health risks for children who are very overweight, transforming the issue into a full-blown national disaster. The consequences of childhood obesity have been drilled into our heads: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, digestive problems, arthritis at a later age and lifelong emotional impacts due to teasing or low self-esteem.
The finger of blame for this phenomenon has been pointed in many directions, indicating numerous culprits for the upward weight trend in young people. One institution that has taken a lot of flack in the crusade to find someone pr something responsible for this "epidemic" is the school system. Parents, political advocates, invested corporate sponsors (of course, don't forget the celebrities!) and many others have expressed great concern over the nutritional content of school lunches, asserting that they are the cause of expanding waistlines in students.
While I certainly agree that schools should do their best to promote movement and exercise, center lessons around healthy choices and offer nutritious food options to the students they serve, I am baffled by the indictment of schools as the instigator for all things related to childhood obesity. Is this accusation fair? While teachers spend a large portion of time with their students and have incredibly significant impact on their lifestyle and ways of thinking, how much control do they truly have over a child’s health or well-being? Though more and more students are receiving a majority of their daily calories from the National School Lunch Program--a service that now also provides breakfast and after-school snacks--can it truly counteract any unhealthy food choices a parent makes at home? What do you think?
Contrary to popular belief, school lunches are no longer the shapeless, tasteless, nutrition-less globs of goop that were once served by menacing old women with hairnets. Recent legislation has required that “school lunches must meet the applicable recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that no more than 30 percent of an individual's calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat” (NSLP Fact Sheet, 2010). Furthermore, the lunches must provide one third the recommended daily allowance of protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium. This means that fresh fruit and vegetables, identifiable meat products, and hot meals that even adults might find appetizing, are the new norm for school lunch. Many schools are also contracting with farms and incorporating local foods into their selection. Leftover sloppy Joe mystery concoctions are a thing of the past.
Yet, many are still adamant that school cafeterias are the broken link in a fight to prevent childhood obesity. This makes me wonder: how can schools be more responsible for obesity than families who drink sugary soda drinks at home, who spend time watching television rather than engaging in a form of physical activity, and who rely on fast food as the basis for most meals? The epidemic of weight gain is so clearly an issue of collective social responsibility that it seems dangerous to single out a single institution as the root cause. What do you think?
Reviewed May 25, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton
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Child obesity is a serious problem nowadays. Parents must learn how to cook nutritionally balanced meals, eliminate snacks high in fat and sugar, avoid fast food and help their children increase levels of physical activity. Parents must teach by doing... Robert from his blog about baby high chairs.October 6, 2011 - 11:26pm