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May 27, 2013

Childhood Obesity And School Lunches

For most of my early childhood I was the type of kid that went to school every day and ate the typical school lunch. Most of which consisted of pizza, burgers, sweetened milk, cookies and foods such as that. Since I was a kid I never really decided what was put on the dinner table, what was in my school lunch, and what I ate each day. I ate whatever was given to me like what most kids in America do as they grow up. But one thing I never considered was exactly what I was eating. Sure it was food, sure it tasted ok to me, but could this be affecting how I work in school and how I eat each day? Of course!

Through the past several years I've learned about all the terrible things that go into kids school lunches. I realized how this so called food was affecting me and others around me. I knew that this was a problem and will remain a problem until someone takes a stand against it and really starts making changes. While researching this topic I was determined to prove that the food that is given to children in school is causing obesity, is affecting our grades, and most importantly is not proving to be a nutritious worth while meal for kids to get through their day. Now I know, I don't have any kids but of course I one day hope to. If I ever do have kids I can only imagine they would be the most important thing to me throughout my life. I as a parent would want the best things for my kid and would only want my kid to live the healthiest life possible. So I ask you to go to a school cafeteria and tell me if you like what you see. Tell me you're happy with the food your kid is getting and that you think your kid is getting what's best. As a teenager myself, what I can tell you is that you will not see nutritious meals at each lunch table and you will not see something that makes you happy

The problem I saw with school lunches:
So what's the problem with school lunches? Many things, I can almost go as far as to say everything. Sure it's provided from the schools, and sure it's considered food, but that in no way means it is good for kids to eat. The problem with school lunches is that the lowest quality is being passed off to kids each day causing poor school performance, obesity, and other serious medical conditions. Kids consume up to 8lbs of sugar per year just from flavored milk alone provided by schools. (Jamieoliver.com) We are treating kids to high sugar, high sodium, and high fat foods for lunch each day that provide hardly any nutrition. During this time of age kids in life usually retain the most information. It's when they learn and adapt to the habits they will use later on in life which most kids learn from their parents. So if kids are being taught to eat these type of foods early on in life and as they grow up, how do you think they are going to eat once they are adults? 

Things can be done with educating parents about nutrition to just pack your lunch and avoid theses school lunches in general, but that's another problem. A good portion of the parents aren't educated enough to do so, a majority of the reason leading back to school and never being taught about the basics of nutrition in the first place. In the average school, a kid only gets 3.4 hours of nutritional education each year. (Jamieoliver.com) Schools are not teaching kids enough about nutrition, schools are not providing nutritious meals, and schools are not doing anything to make a change to it. But this of course is not all of the schools. Some schools are actually adding natural nutritious meals and are getting great results from kids through test scores, and feedback on how the kids feel each day. 

Proof that school lunches affect children:
A British study from 2007, found that certain food dyes and preservatives can increase hyperactivity and distractibility in children. In March, an Oxford University study showed that schoolchildren in Britain who adopted chef and healthy food activist Jamie Oliver’s school meal program, scored higher on standardized tests and were absent fewer times than their peers who ate less nutritious school fare. Even though this is just one of the studies done and one of them very few schools taking action to change what they provide for lunch, the facts clearly prove that having a healthier more nutritious lunch does improve grades and overall school performance. 



One of the conditions that has been increasing among children along with obesity in the U.S. is ADHD. ADHD causes a very serious problem when it comes to learning. In some cases it is something you are born with which is just unpreventable. But lately, more studies have shown that it could be linked to the food we are eating each day starting at an early age rather than just being born with it from the start. An Australian study published in 2010 proved that the consumption of processed meats, preservatives, and artificial colors found in most school provided lunches increased the risk of ADHD among children. 

With the studies from other countries all proving that sugars, preservatives, and processed meats all lead to a poorer performance in school and an increased risk in ADHD, it makes me wonder why our government and our schools continue to still provide these terrible foods to kids every day. I mean it's pretty obvious that obesity is rising among children and America's average test scores are dropping, and we wonder why. Well I'm pretty sure I know at least one of the main causes is the food that is provided during school lunches. They are unable to work to the best of their ability, unable to get a good nutritious meal each day, and are without a doubt destroying their bodies and contributing to the road to obesity as they grow up. I honestly think the worst part is not many people seem to be making an effort to change such a serious issue, maybe because they feel like they can't.

How we can make a change:
I often feel helpless when it comes to this topic and being able to make a change as most people do. I think when a lot of people look at the government and the power they have, they do feel helpless and feel like they are unable to make a change. Now while that may be true as an individual, as a group we can all make a difference in the world. There are many great groups, movements, and petitions brought forward each day to help change the food given to children in school. There are schools that have been able to make the switch to natural foods and that have improved the lives of this kids in it from something as simple as getting enough signatures on a petition. Jamie Oliver has traveled to schools all around the world and has carried on a never ending battle to one day change all school lunches to natural and wholesome meals. He's had a lot of success with his movements and petitions but of course a lot of failures too. With the help of citizens around the U.S. we can make a difference to what lunches are provided to kids. We can lower obesity rates and improve grades among children. We can improve the overall lives of children in this generation and the next, but only if we come together as one and take a stand as a whole.

Now when I first started this project I realized that I wanted to pick something I was passionate about but was also a serious problem that American's deal with each day. I wanted to raise awareness on this topic but also show that there is never a limit to what we can change as people. Just because school lunches are the way they are doesn't mean we have to settle for the common interest. Just like for this project, I needed the right material and right info to be able to complete it, so shouldn't the same apply to school food as well. Expecting a kid to get all A's and B's in school on a diet that proves to make school harder is something I don't find fair at all. I've dealt with trying to get good grades in school and would fail to do so no matter how hard I tried. Not because I was a slacker, not because I didn't care about school, but simply because of the lack of nutritious food I would not be getting each day. No kid should ever have to be put through what I went through which is why I'm so passionate to make a change to school lunches so no kid ever has to deal with this again.


How do you feel about school lunches? Do you let your kid eat them or do you stick to packing lunches yourself?

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

(I'm actually a child) I think that all we need is to make the healthy foods taste better, then people will actually eat them!

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