Wednesday, January 26, 2011

U.S. Aims to Make School Lunches Healthier


Sloppy Joe Fridays and tater tot Tuesdays could be a thing of the past as more attention gets drawn toward school lunches. Studies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have revealed that school lunches are leading kids on the path towards obesity. The USDA now wants to chuck 15 years of mystery meat Mondays and start cutting salt and fat and adding more fruits and vegetables to the cafeteria menu.
New guidelines have been proposed recently in the attempt of making school lunches healthier and fight the growing child obesity epidemic.
The new guidelines would give school meals calorie limits and salt would be cut by half over the course of 10 years. Most trans fats would be banned and more fruits and vegetables would be incorporated in each meal. Other guidelines such as only serving low-fat or nonfat milk, and increasing the amount of whole grains in each meal would also be seen in the cafeterias across America.
The USDA study, which was published in the Journal of Human Resources, followed more than 13,500 students and found that participation in the national school lunch program. It found that a there was a significant increase in the probability of a child becoming obese by the third grade.
According to the CDC, obesity in children ages 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008. And obesity is adolescence ages 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0 percent to 18.1 percent.
The guidelines at this point remain a proposal. It could take several years before schools are really required to make changes to the lunches, but there is hope that schools will start making the necessary changes now.
Recently President Barack Obama has signed the child nutrition bill, which will help schools pay for the healthier foods, and while the president helps fight the obesity epidemic through the signing of a bill, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Lets Move initiative, is also attempting to fight the rapid spread of obesity. The campaign advocates eating healthy and being physically active, both of which also help stop the rapid spread of obesity.
Obesity has already been known to cause increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and breathing problems. It is possible to slow down and eventually reverse the trend of childhood obesity.
By changing the eating habits of our nation’s children during school lunch, we are giving the next generation a better chance at a healthier life. It’s not only the children’s future that we are worried about, but ours as well. For the first time in 200 years, the current generation may have shorter life expectancies than their parents, and we can change this. All we have to do is continue to make the small changes like providing healthier school lunches.

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