School Lunches: The Newest Childhood Obesity Risk


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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Growing up, my mom usually packed my lunch for school. I was totally content eating the same thing day after day- typically peanut butter and jelly. Most kids in my grade school packed their lunches, but in high school things changed a little. I would pack my lunch, but then I'd also see what was being served in the lunch line. I'd usually buy some French fries and/or Little Debbie snack cakes (which I still love to this day), to "round out" my healthy meal. There were lots of high calorie, high fat foods to choose from.

I had friends (in grade school and high school) who bought their lunches daily. Sometimes there would be salad on their plates, but more often it was things like pizza and tator tots. That's why I wasn't surprised to read about a new study which found that kids who regularly purchased school lunches were more likely to be obese than those who brought their lunches.

The study of sixth graders, published in the American Heart Journal, found that students were 29% more likely to be obese if they ate school lunches. "Of the 142 obese children in the study for whom dietary information was known, almost half were school-lunch regulars, compared with only one-third of the 787 who were not obese." More than two hours per day in front of the T.V. also increases the risk of childhood obesity, but surprisingly, not by as much- only 19%.

Although many schools have relied on high energy food with little nutritional value in the past because it's cheaper, that could soon be changing. "Under a federal law passed in December, Department of Agriculture guidelines will limit the number of calories served at every school meal and require programs to offer a broad variety of fruits and vegetables."

Are you surprised by these findings? What kind of experience have you had with school lunches (for you or your children)?

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    I am a teacher and the school food is horrible where I am. Just because they label it chicken doesn't mean it is real chicken. Most of what is served is processed, frozen, or canned. Fresh foods are served...mostly carrots, celery, apples, oranges. But processed food is not always healthy...I always pack my lunch unless I eat off the salad bar WHICH IS NOT AVAILABLE THIS YEAR BECAUSE OF LACK OF FUNDING AND FAILURE TO DELIVER PRODUCE ON A
    REGULAR BASIS! We pass these laws but they fail to follow through. - 8/9/2012   8:15:56 PM
  • 88
    No, I'm not surprised by learning that school lunches lead to obesity. I worked in my child's cafeteria for a while. But even those who brought lunches from home, or who got the free lunch, managed to find money to buy extra goodies for themselves...

    Becca - 6/4/2012   3:35:56 PM
  • 87
    Once you've become an adult, I don't think it depends so much on what you were eating as a child as it does on what you were taught about the food you were/are eating.

    I grew up buying school lunches (our high school cafeteria sold funnel cakes, if you'll believe it!) and eating the standard kid favorites: mac & cheese as an after-school snack, sugar cereals for breakfast, chips/cakes/cookies/pie/ice cream for dessert nearly every night, soda throughout the day, and 'portion size' was non-existent.

    Somewhere along the line, I became curious about food. What was it made of? How was it made? I started asking questions, which led me to have the diet that I do today, consisting of whole grains, lean protein, lots of vegetables, fruit, and lowfat dairy.

    My family still eats junk, and I don't judge them for it, but it doesn't even taste good to me anymore.

    I think it's best to fight for better school lunches, but if you find yourself not getting anywhere, really TEACH your kid about the food industry and hopefully they'll learn to make better choices on their own. - 5/29/2012   2:32:12 PM
  • 86
    I'm not surprised. I am saddened by it, but not surprised. I do not have kids yet, but when I do, I hope to be very involved in what they eat at lunch. I also hope to be able to teach them about the proper diet and exercise. - 11/22/2011   2:16:55 PM
    I"m thankful my son's school has already addressed this issue. School lunches us 1% milk or water for drinks and the meals include an all you can eat "salad" bar. This bar includes kid friendly veggies and fruits, most of which the children grow themselves on the school grounds. I have eaten lunch at my son's school and was impressed at how eagerly the kids ate their fruits and veggies. Most of the kids said they liked being able to pick out which ones they wanted and there was no limit to how much they could get. - 10/24/2011   8:03:08 AM
  • 84
    One of the things my stepson's school did was remove soda (even diet) from the vending machines because of the sugar. The soda was replaced with engery drinks and fruit juices, left me speechless.

    The school menu is far from healthy. I use to go over the menu with my stepson to help him make better lunch choices....but there really wasn't any better choice. I know there is an issue with what kids like and what is good for them but there should be a common meeting place. - 10/21/2011   12:15:08 PM
    I believe that our school district has tried to take steps in the right direction to modify the school lunches that are served, but unfortunately, the kids often throw away the "healthier" choices on the tray and just eat the more conventional "kid fare" on the plate. My kids can buy lunch once or twice per week. The other days they make their own lunch. I think that the district is fighting an uphill battle though because as other posters have mentioned, many parents don't serve healthy foods at home and kids (like all of us) are resistant to change. I'm glad that our district keeps on trying anyway. - 8/30/2011   12:49:53 PM
  • TMR0011
    I completely and without hesitation agree with this study. Very few schools anywhere in the country actually cook the food onsite. It's brought in and reheated. Think airline food when they still served it. The stuff has very little nutritional value and they consider tator tots and french fries a vegetable. Fast Food chains are being allowed to sell in school. Most lunch lines have plenty of convenience food choices such as little debbies, canned soda & juice (the contains 10% juice kind) chips, candy bars, etc.

    To the teacher that says kids bring plenty of bad stuff in packed lunches... yes that is true plenty of parents don't know much about nutrition and how to pack a nutritious lunch. That doesn't mean the school lunch is anything a child should be eating. If you indead have healthy lunches at your school than yours is the EXCEPTION and not the rule. There are some school districts out there trying to do better but most are just throwing out the old excuse of we don't have enough money. Well Jamie Oliver is out there showing them how to do it without increasing their current budgets.

    My daughter will be sent to school with a bagged lunch and NO money.

    - 3/18/2011   1:01:55 PM
  • 81
    My Sister and I ate school lunches without a choice, We walked back and forth to school.Right under 2 miles. I was fat and she was olive oil. We ate the same foods most of the time. Our Mother always fixed nutritious meals with vegetables.We wouldn't eat them.
    - 3/6/2011   5:06:13 AM
  • 80
    I don't know if this survey is accurate or not, but I didn't buy school lunch when I was growing up until I was in high school, and even then I didn't always buy school lunch (we had a made-to-order grill in our cafeteria; I went to a very small high school). I always brought my lunch in grade school.

    I wish I could say that about my (step)kids. They always buy their lunch every day. None of them are obese, and only one (the 16-year-old) is overweight (she has always had a weight issue, even before she started school). I wish they would bring their lunch, but their father feels the school lunches save us time and the kids like them.

    The thing I would most like is for the schools to have microwaves for the kids to use for their brought lunches. My kids would probably bring their own lunches if they could microwave leftovers from dinner, or heat up soup or chili from a can. - 3/1/2011   2:31:55 PM
  • 79
    I've watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, and french fries should never be considered a vegetable.

    When I was school we had vegetables in foam cups, but they were covered in butter and salt. There were many days that we had the options of mini pizzas, mini corn dogs, or chicken nuggets, along with either corn or peas, and some sort of fruit. There was also an area where you could make a small iceberg salad. But on the way to pay there was a cart full of things like little debbie snack cakes, fruit flavored chews, and pies.

    I think my school made an effort by having iceberg salad and fruit, but all the bad stuff available overshadowed that. The meals themselves may not be making kids obese, but it's setting them up to make bad decisions. - 2/28/2011   4:57:28 PM
  • 78
    10% of the time I had what I thought was a great lunch which included a pudding cup or fruit cup in that awful syrup. On that day we also got a chocolate bar and sometimes another unhealthy treat. This is because it was the day after groceries were bought and we each got these few junk treats every 2 weeks and we had the choice to save them or not. My dad had so much to do to raise 3 kids that he gave in sometimes to our pleas. Of course this was in additon to a frugal sandwhich and 8 cents to buy milk. If I had 2 more cents I sometimes spent 10 cents on a vending machine chicken broth with a million grams of sodium.sounds like I grew up in the great depression but it was in the late 60s and early 70s. The kids I thought were rich had fries and something every day. Glad we were not rich because the biweekly treats were plenty in hindsight. - 2/28/2011   4:49:19 PM
  • 77
    Yes, school lunches can be the pits sometimes. But you'd be surprised just how hungry some kids are and those same lunches have been a lifesaver. I work with an afterschool program and a Saturday program and the kids tell us in surveys and directly how much they like the food. We just switched to the state/federal program that allows us to serve supper for afterschool and get reimbursed. We are feeding them things like baked potato with cheese and broccoli, and even chicken alfredo with fruit. There's a lot of leeway in making the food nutritional but something they'll eat. I think it depends on the person making the menu. - 2/28/2011   2:56:19 PM
  • 76
    How do we win the battle between brown bag versus school lunch? - 2/27/2011   12:07:27 PM
  • 75
    I am curious as to the content of this study. Was the study comparing just the "standard" school lunch or are these kids also going through the ala carte line or getting additional ala carte foods. Also many kids get the standard lunch, but parents allow for seconds, thirds, or more extra portions of food items. What were the controls in the study. As a Registered Dietitian, I KNOW the guidelines for a STANDARD lunch at school---it has to meet calorie, fat and nutrient guidelines. Often the school lunch is the MOST nutritous meal of the day for many kids. IT is when children add on extra portions or ala carte items that the calories EXPLODE. Most schools allow parents to control this. I can set up my child's payment program and choices allowed in grade school through high school. I can set a price limit as well as portion limit and even no ala carte items. PARENTS need to get involved and find out what their school offers!
    SP Registered Dietitian Becky - 2/26/2011   4:20:35 PM
  • 74
    I live in North Texas and have to say our schools have very healthy lunches but I'm sure it hasn't always been this way. A typical lunch here includes skim milk, 100% whole wheat breads, low fat meats, and always a serving of veggies. I guess we are blessed in that way. - 2/26/2011   4:19:21 PM
  • 73
    I was a poor kid, actually homeless for a long time except not living in shelters but with friends or family till something came up and we moved on. Being homeless and a single parent family I was eligible for school DINNERS in the UK where I grew up. It was truly a dinner at noon time Potatoes gravy bread vegetable and a dessert. Often pieces of cheese and always a bottle of full fat milk. None of my family members were as overweight as I was but my saving grace was I was athletic so I was popular. I would go home and most working class families had dinner in the evening when the day was done. So I had two dinners in one day. No wonder I was the fat kid on the block. I do think that applies to lots of kids these days they also go home to have a second huge meal with family who only had a quick lunch during the day. Leaving the kids with money or a lunch account they will simply over eat, and being kids their choices are not always healthy. No supervision so poor choices. Pat in Maine. - 2/26/2011   1:09:51 PM
  • 72
    School lunches, vending machines, might as well put in a fast food restaurant in out schools to help everyone gain weight. - 2/26/2011   11:32:58 AM
  • 71
    I am appalled that so many schools today have vending machines full of junk for the kids to eat. And they take that option because they only get 15 minutes to eat! When I was a kid we had very nutritious meals and everybody had to drink milk or do without something to drink! - 2/26/2011   7:23:03 AM
  • 70
    I have to laugh at my son's lunch menu that comes home every month--on the other side it has an article called "nutrition nugget" and has lots of info on healthy eating despite the menu having processed food like pizza, chicken nuggets and french toast on there. Talk about mixed messages! I let my child pick once a week what day he wants to eat at school, but pack the rest of the week. He also has to bring in a snack, which the teacher has mentioned has to be healthy, but have been told that there are students who bring things like pop tarts in as taht snack. I don't think the school lunches can be completely to blame, but if they don't have the resources at home to learn these things, I believe that the school should at least try to offer healthy foods as well as teaching them why this is necessary. Unfortunately not all parents have this knowledge to teach their children. - 2/25/2011   5:48:14 PM
  • 69
    I both brought lunch and purchased school lunches throughout my public schooling. In high school, I definitely ate crazy things. A sample lunch would be pizza, dipped in Greek dressing or a bagel with cream cheese, bag of pretzels, and a chocolate Quick. It's so crazy to think back on it now. When I eventually went vegetarian in high school, I started making better choices mostly out of necessity and we also got a salad bar around that time.

    School lunches are a mess and so are the government guidelines. A french fry is considered a vegetable? Are you kidding me!? The government needs to stop giving contracts to companies that produce junk (like chicken fingers, tater tots, odd meat products) and schools need to figure out how to ween lots of options out--like those snack cakes, flavored milks, and high fat sandwiches like cheese steaks. Kids don't need those foods on a daily basis.

    Even if kids aren't getting overweight or obese from these foods, they aren't thriving either. - 2/25/2011   4:30:35 PM
    IM NOT SURPRISED in high school my favorite meal was cheesy beeforoni and let me stress the cheesy part it was filled with cheese and had a puddle of oil on the top to prove it. i also was big in high school and learned how to keep a food diary with calories 305 lbs later i lerned that it's hard to keep up with my diet eating school foods that was the most "calorific" meal. - 2/25/2011   4:26:18 PM
    I have been a high school teacher for over 10 years. Our high school does not have a cafeteria, so we do not offer lunches of any kind. Kids go off campus, bring a lunch, or buy from a club trying to raise $.
    I don't think that school lunches are totally responsible for kids' obesity, but I DO think it plays a part - the lunches are just too carbohydrate heavy. The schools/cooks don't get much choice about this - they are following government guidelines. While I think the new gov guidelines are good, I doubt if it will make that much of a difference because kids will eat unhealthy foods in other places, mostly at home. - 2/25/2011   4:07:21 PM
  • 66
    I never understand why school cooks seems to think they must produce these high fat, poorly balanced diets. Perhaps they think it will fill the kids up or the kids will eat it because that's what they think the kids will eat - if only they would realise that wholemeal/wholegrain foods will sustain longer. Also, I think they need to talk to the kids because then they would realise that a lot of the kids like really healthy foods. They really do need to go on training courses and get away from that 'Fast Food' offering they dish up daily. They'd also find that the cost of providing the meals comes down too. - 2/25/2011   3:38:00 PM
  • 65
    I'm a teacher, and I can honestly say that I almost never eat school lunches for the very reason that they are so unhealthy. When I do, I usually get the Uncrustable peanut butter sandwiches. Every single entree comes with baked french fries (which look like they were fried before freezing). The only salad option is a chef salad which is laden with meat and cheese and served with regular dressing (which is also made with high fructose corn syrup). Even buying preservative-filled frozen meals is better than any of that.

    Regarding the elimintating of lunch programs - there are far too many children who would go hungry if there wasn't a cafeteria. Unfortunately those kids do during school breaks. Without food, students cannot focus well enough to learn. Maslow's hierarchy... food and shelter are the primary needs.

    My father was a teacher, and I qualified for reduced lunches at school. (We still rarely got to buy lunch - Mom always made them) - 2/25/2011   2:30:36 PM
  • 64
    I always bought lunches. I don't recall them being worse than what I could have brought from home and I got more variety. Maybe it's just today's school lunches. So many schools have allowed fast food chains to take over their kitchens. - 2/25/2011   1:19:01 PM
    when i went to school we did not have a lunch program . children brought their lunches from home . ate in the main room . my mom did not buy lunch stuff so i brought nothing from home to eat there was not anything to bring . i sat with all the other kids and watched them eat . yes i wanted food but i did not say anything to anyone . now my great grandchildren have a school lunch program . i say good and help pay for them to eat their lunches . money well spent . they are not allowed to bring any kind of snacks . when they brought a package of crackers . they where put on report for two weeks . now i know that peanut butter was forbidden but these where just crackers . did not rate a two week suspension in my view . all in all i think school lunches can be fine . with the proper mangement of nutruion - 2/25/2011   1:06:35 PM
  • 62
    I don't understand why they need a cafeteria at schools period? Think about if it wasn't there and kids just brought their lunch. I can hear the folks now making the excuse that some kids come to school hungry and need access to food there; that could be rectified simply by having some healthy sandwiches/soup in a fridge somewhere to assist the kids that have nothing.
    Schools are training children to be fat by normalizing "eating out". I don't know any slim working people that eat out several days a week . - 2/25/2011   12:34:44 PM
  • 61
    I am not surprised at the results of the study. Personally, when I first took a job on the road, for convenience, I ate a lot of fast food meals, similar to the food served in the school cafeterias. My weight immediately ballooned and I was able to get it under control by always packing my lunches and snacks for the day on the road. I had a lot of great tricks, such as freezing my bottled water, for a nice icy treat in the afternoon. As for school cafeteria food, in my travels, I spoke to the gals in the line at a school cafeteria and asked why they serve uhhealthy food. They explained two things, most cafeterias are run by outside contracters who are trying to also make a buck. They simply could not get the kids to buy the healthy stuff and a lot of it went to waste. That said, I can't help but wonder if only healthy food and no junk food were served, would it force the kids to buy the healthy stuff? Only if they have been taught in the home how to eat healthy. - 2/25/2011   12:20:41 PM
  • 60
    I always brought a school lunch and my children tried school lunches a few times many years ago and they hated them. I can't say I blame them after seeing what they were serving when I visited their school. - 2/25/2011   11:52:41 AM
  • 59
    I bought my lunch every single day of school. I always got pizza, fries, or a burrito. There wasn't anything even offered that was healthy besides sometimes some lettuce that people would drown in ranch. I'm so glad they are starting to put healthier options in schools!! But I do believe healthy eating starts at home, we as adults need to provide a good example. - 2/25/2011   11:38:30 AM
  • VWAT025
    I don't know about where everyone else lives but in our school district they have changed the food so much that it is to the point that the kids don't want to eat it. I think there should be a balance somewhere. What's the point in being healthy if the kids don't eat it? My 3rd grader takes her lunch everyday because she says the food is awful. - 2/25/2011   10:42:24 AM
  • KATIES333
    Healthy eating NEEDS to start at home as a family. Schools and government are not 100% responsible. If you feel school breakfasts and lunches are not healthy and your kids are not getting healthy options or using healthy options, send in a healthy meal from home and teach them to pack their own healthy lunch at a very young age. Mom and Dad do not need to pack lunches--the kids won't learn. Start them off in elementary school packing lunches with them and then have them do it themselves. If you don't teach them, they will never get it and eat unhealthy their whole lives. I came from a family of two parents and nine kids. We ate healthy and none of us are obese today.

    This is such a tough economic time and such a bad time to put our tax dollars into overhauling the school menus. Start at home!! - 2/25/2011   10:00:34 AM
  • 56
    I volunteer at my kids' school cafeteria and I choose not to offer them lunch there. Most of the choices are not balanced, not tasty and yes, not very healthy. Some examples are: Italian Dunkers: basically a greasy thick white bread baked 'grilled' cheese sandwich cut into sticks and then some spaghetti sauce. Often sides are also carbohydrates as well. Ex. nuggets, fries (granted the fries are baked) and peaches (canned) or sausage on a stick wrapped with a sweetened pancake, fries and fruit or some pasta, roll and mixed veggies and canned fruit.

    They always have two choices and unfortunately the sides for one entree don't always match to the other entree. The one entree for kids lunch the I just don't understand is a soft pretzel and cheese sauce!!!! Really, for a lunch?! I would never serve that to my children for lunch. I so often see the food thrown out or the kids only eating the entree and not the veggies and fruit. SAD and WASTEFUL.

    Parents are the 1st defense, but schools only serve what they are told to serve by companies like Aramark. We do have a fruit and veggie bar, and the kids enjoy that.

    Keep talking to your kids and they government. It is helping. We got whole grain chicken nuggets and a veggie/fruit bar out of it!

    rumbamel - 2/25/2011   9:58:38 AM
  • 55
    I am a substitute teacher and the high school that I am at offers fresh fruit, smoothies, and water, but also six kinds of pizza daily and burgers if the students don't want the main meal. I have seen the main meal enough to know that most high school males with average or better activity do not get enough food if following the federal guidelines. Adult meals are the same as a lst graders. - 2/25/2011   9:53:05 AM
    There are a few things here that really have not been addressed.

    1. The government set the "guidelines" for a "balanced" meal. If schools did not adhere to those guidelines they lost much of their funding.

    2. Children in families that are low income are not eating just 1 meal at school each day they are eating 2....they also get "free" breakfasts.

    3. Schools, because of lack of funding, no longer have a PE class....

    4. Many of the school systems do not have on site kitchens capable of cooking a meal just resources to reheat what comes from a central kitchen.

    There are many other issues....I did the purchasing for an entire school systems Summer Meals program. The government guidelines were a joke. We tried to supplement fresh fruits and veggies with a community garden that was "tended" by volunteers and managed by the local community Food Bank. That garden was also used as a tool to teach children about where their food came from, how to plant and tend a home garden....we even gave them the seeds/plantings, loaned tools to those that couldn't afford them and sent a gardening coordinator out to check out their property to see where the best place to plant was and how to plant. I'm retired now but am happy to see the government is starting to come around to a healthier way of feeding these children..... - 2/25/2011   9:51:16 AM
  • 53
    I ran a large childcare that included food service, with cooks and cafeteria, so I learned the school lunch guidelines. I was stunned to see pizza and French fries on one of our menus one week, and challenged the cook on this selection. Potatoes counted as a vegetable, not a starch. If the cook made a lunch menu that consisted of a burger, green beans, mashed potatoes, fruit, and milk, we would not be eligible for reimbursement from the lunch program unless he also added a bread.

    We made our own rule, that potatoes could be served in compliance with the meal pattern rules, but would be on our menus no more than twice a week (and that counted breakfast and lunch together!).

    The new federal guidelines appear to follow our internal decision. I think that they limit to a total of 1 cup of potatoes each week.

    Meanwhile, my son almost never ate school lunches. We are vegetarian. Every once in awhile an option might show up on the menu, but the risk of last-minute changes made us hesitant. His lunch from home each day was a sandwich on whole-grain bread (cheese or peanut butter, later soy nut butter), fresh fruit or a juice-packed fruit cup, a single serving dessert/snack pack (like the 100-cal stuff), and another item, sometimes fresh veggies, sometimes whole-grain crackers. Son is at 95th percentile for height (suggesting adequate nutrition) and 90th percentile for weight (suggesting he didn't eat many school lunches). He is 6-ft+ at age 15, slim and healthy.

    Sorry, I'm ranting, but I really think the school lunch program was overdue for change. It may have been designed to be high-energy, to serve children who might not get enough energy outside of school. I think we have had the knowledge needed to improve it for a long time. Reimbursement from the federal program should increase, to support the higher cost of fresh fruits and vegetables.

    I'm NOT blaming cooks; they have to comply with guidelines and work within budgets. The food program works by reimbursing for counted meals. You might get $2.25 for each lunch served to a child who qualifies for free lunch, $1.95 for a child who qualifies for reduced-price lunch, and $1.50 for a child who does not qualify for any reduction in meal cost. The school tallies the children in each category that obtain a lunch each day, and that is how the school is paid (that's why using computers in the cafeteria is such a help to them!). If a meal does not meet the guidelines (remember, pizza, fries, fruit, and milk WOULD), it is disallowed, and the school is not reimbursed for all the meals that day.

    The school lunch program has a great deal of control, by deciding on rules for meal patterns and also on rates of reimbursement. I hope we can use this program to make positive changes! - 2/25/2011   9:50:10 AM
    Some schools have begun to improve the quality of their lunches: no more mystery meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, less processed, prepackaged junk, etc. But schools, especially high schools, do suffer from the discretion of children who prefer cheesy fries, chips, vending machine candy, and especially soft drinks. Too often, the healthy options aren't priced to sell (when compared to a food that will be more pleasing for a similar price) or under marketed (the rack of chips are right in your face; the salads are resting in a cold trough, and there are ice chips in the iceberg lettuce!). School lunches may be under scrutiny, but that scrutiny hasn't produced enough pressure to change yet. - 2/25/2011   9:46:00 AM
    I think I'm a little wary of the findings of this study. School lunches have been under a microscope for several years now for various reasons. The first being that school lunches weren't very nutritious. Now, someone is saying that kids who eat school lunches are becoming obese ?

    I seriously doubt that the kids who are eating school lunches are getting obese because of the lunch. Like others who've already replied, these kids are bringing in their own junk as well as eating junk at home. Keep in mind that many schools still have vending machines on the premises. What's to keep a child from buying a lunch along with a snack from one of those machines ?

    You can't pinpoint school lunches for the rise in obesity in "some" children. Did this study look to see what they were eating at home ? Were those number being accounted for ? If not, then the study is flawed.

    School lunches have been the butt of jokes for longer than I've been around. When I was young, everyone made fun of school lunches. Who knew exactly what the mystery meat of the day was ? They say it's chicken stew. Sorry, but it looked more like tofu cubes to me, not chicken.

    My point... school lunches tend to be portion controlled these days. They may not be perfect, but in some cases, they may be the only balanced meal a child gets. So, let's take the blame off the school and find out what kind of nutrition these children were getting at home.

    - 2/25/2011   9:39:11 AM
  • 50
    I recall my biggest choice at lunch when I was a young kid being "pink" or "brown" milk on Fridays, when chocolate milk was offered. In high school though... I went to a school that had 2 lunch hours so that the cafeteria could fit all the kids. I always was thrilled to get "first lunch" because there were salads available at "first lunch" but were always sold out by second. I transferred HS in the middle of my JR year and became "famous" for the simple fact that I graduated HS without ever tasting that school's cafeteria food. (Mostly, though, it was because I was really shy-- and no one ever talked me through the cafeteria routine-- so I never took the risk of being embarrassed-- )

    I have no idea what I will do for my kiddo when he starts school and lunches. I suppose, I will play it by ear and see what there is available. I'm not overly worried. Because my kid won't eat french fries. Tater tots? never. Mashed potatoes? Nope. White bread? what's that? He cried when we went to McDonalds for a "treat" lunch and they were out of apple dippers... "Don't make me eat french fries, Momma!!!" We got some nuggets and then ate the applesauce I keep in my bag for such emergencies! - 2/25/2011   9:38:17 AM
  • 49
    My guess that obese children are getting most of their excess food from unhealthy foods at home! They also spend far too much time in front of the television set and computer screens. When my oldest son was in high school he bought 2 hot lunches every day. He is only 5' 6" and was extremely active and never got fat. He just needed the calories to keep going. - 2/25/2011   9:25:47 AM
  • 48
    Because of cost considerations, many school kitchens do not have freezers. Everything must be canned. The schools rely on government supplies too which can limit choices. You tend to get what you pay for. - 2/25/2011   9:16:16 AM
  • 47
    Yes, schools need to overhaul their menus and slowly but surely I think that is happening. Keep in mind though, school lunches are just one meal a day. I think it would be irresponsible to blame childhood obesity on that one meal.
    As a teacher, I see everyday the junk kids bring in for a snack. Good eating habits begin in the home and parents shape those habits by what they put in their shopping cart every week. - 2/25/2011   9:02:42 AM
  • 46
    When I was at school (many moons ago!) we had one choice - eat what was provided or go hungry! We sat at tables of eight and two "servers" collected the meal and it was dished out between us. (Fairly as well!) There was no pizza or burgers to chose from although we did always had chips on a Friday. These days children have far too much choice. It takes us adults a lot of willpower to choose the healthy salad or vegetables that we don't really like but know are good for us so why do we expect our young children to do this? - 2/25/2011   9:00:35 AM
  • 45
    I walked home for lunch every day, but nowdays there is too short a lunch hour. We also had two recesses and i was a normal weight when I graduated from high school--125 pounds at 5'3.75". - 2/25/2011   8:49:41 AM
  • 44
    No surprise at all, here! My kids NEVER buy school lunch. When schools (and parents!) commit to having real food, cooked on site from whole, close to the source ingredients, that might change. But that's not looking so likely, is it??? - 2/25/2011   7:03:23 AM
    I'm not the least surprised. I worked the lunch crew throughout junior high and high school and saw it all. French fries, tater tots and no substitutions! Then we would drown them in fry sauce (a mix of mayo and ketchup). The salad bar seems like a safe option, except when you pour on a half cup of salad dressing on it! Then there were seconds, which were free once all the line was served. The schools can only do so much if the kids are going to add unhealthy amounts of extras. Then there was the Reagan era ruling that ketchup could be counted as a vegetable. The summer after I graduated, a kid a year behind me died from obesity related problems, probably heart failure - they put his identical twin on a strict diet, I heard. - 2/25/2011   2:58:17 AM
  • 42
    I can't say that I'm surprised by the findings. The menu at my kids school is usually pizza, corndogs, etc. It's definitely not healthy food. However, one thing that I'm not sure the study took into account is that many of the kids who "buy" school lunches actually get them for free because of socio-economic status. There have also been studies that show that the lower income the family is, the more likely the kids are to grow up obese. It is just one meal a day, and I don't think that kids are becoming obese because of it. I do think that the school lunches should be overhauled because that one meal a day may be the healthiest meal an underprivileged child will get. - 2/25/2011   12:48:24 AM
  • 41
    No, I can't say I'm surprised at the findings, although my granddaughter's school district has a color-coded menu, showing better & best choices to round out the meals. She cut her teeth on fresh fruits & veggies, so she loves having different things to choose from.

    My mom packed our lunches until junior high, I think. All my high school years I ate the same lunch, from the cafeteria, almost without exception: tuna salad on kaiser roll, skim milk and a "Brown Cow" ice cream bar. It didn't kill me, but I wasn't tempted by the hot lunch line foods and had plenty of fruits & vegetables at home. - 2/25/2011   12:02:24 AM
  • 40
    Are you surprised by these findings?
    What kind of experience have you had with school lunches (for you or your children)? My children ate lunch in school. Whatever was prepared and came home and ate agin. The choice that the schools provided are just what I would consider food. Not the good stuff but fuel for the body.

    - 2/24/2011   11:11:43 PM

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