An article in the Associated Press this past week reported that some schools across the country are deciding to quit offering healthier meals for students under the National School Lunch Program. The decision is based on many students’ reluctance to eat healthier meals that include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The situation is so bad that schools report they are losing money.
According to the article, students were complaining about the small portions. Many were also throwing away pieces of fruit without even taking one bite. To avoid the healthier but presumably unappealing meals, some students resorted to bringing lunches from home and even choosing to go hungry in certain cases.
The federal government invested a hefty $11 billion into the National School Lunch Program. The program provides cash reimbursements for every meal served, which is how school cafeterias generate their revenue. This income has declined for some schools because students are not happy with the meal choices.
The decision to quit offering healthier meals in schools can have detrimental health-related consequences for thousands of students. Obesity is a worldwide epidemic. Steps are being taken to alleviate this preventable disease. It requires a concentrated effort by everyone to help ensure future generations will not suffer the same fate as the current state of society.
In the 30-year span from 1980-2010, childhood obesity more than doubled in American children ages 6–11 from 7% to about 18%. In the same time span, obesity more than tripled in adolescents ages 12–19 from 5% to 18%. The result: by 2010 more than one-third of children and adolescents were either overweight or obese.
On a good note, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that obesity rates among preschoolers have fallen in 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands between 2008-2011. Five of those states and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw the largest decreases, a significant reduction of at least 1%. In the United States, roughly one out of every eight preschoolers are obese.
The solution for reducing childhood obesity is quite complex and is more complicated by children’s refusal to eat healthier foods. One thing is very clear: giving up should not be an option.
Children spend much of their time in school, much like adults spend much of their time at work. Increased education and parent involvement is desperately needed, if it was not obvious before.
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