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November 30 2017

School Lunch Makeover Results in More Chubby Kids

by Julie Gunlock

The Daily Mail reports today:

More than 57 percent of children in the United States will be obese by age 35 if current trends in weight gain and poor eating habits continue, researchers warned Wednesday.

The risk of obesity is high even among children whose present weight is normal, said the report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

'Only those children with a current healthy weight have less than a 50 percent chance of becoming obese by the age of 35 years,' said the study, led by researchers at Harvard University.

Some 36.5 percent of the US adult population is now considered obese, a condition federal health officials define as having a body mass index of 30 or higher.

That's interesting considering all the work Former First Lady Michelle Obama did to reduce the number of overweight children. She completely revamped the school lunch program (which resulted in inedible food being served to kids and a massive and very embarrassing food waste problem). She launched "Let's Move" in an effort to get kids moving. She beat up on food companies for producing what consumers demand and backed food activist demands to add more and costly labels to foods and restaurant menus. She pressured grocery stores to stop stocking certain food items and even criticized advertisers for putting food ads on television.

But what Michelle Obama didn't do is talk to parents or involve parents in the conversation about how best to tackle the childhood obesity issue. Instead, the Obama administration sideline parents and encourage them to pass off their child's nutritional development to the state—in this case the school lunch lady. In fact, under the Obama Administration, the school dinner program expanded from a small federal pilot program serving 13 urban areas to a national program serving all schools. So, now, kids can have three full meals served at school--breakfast lunch and dinner.

And what has that gotten us? More chubby kids.

It's time for a new strategy. Instead of expanding the school lunch program, we need to encourage parents to feed their kids. This isn’t a call to kill the school lunch program nor is it the heartless advocacy of letting kids go hungry.

The school feeding programs should continue. But they should serve the kids that actually need help--not be a program designed to let middle class and rich parents to skip packing their kid a lunch, which is precisely what school feeding programs have become for many parents.

Just consider the rather shocking numbers: Of the five billion meals served during the school year, around 33 percent are paid in full. That means a third of the kids eating these school-provided meals didn’t need or qualify for a free or reduced cost meal. In other words, these are kids come from families whose parents can afford to pack them a lunch. According to the School Nutrition Association, on average, full priced school lunch costs between $2.34 and $2.60. While that might seem reasonable, that’s a pretty high price to pay if kids won’t eat what’s being served.

There's a high cost to parents ceding thier child's nutrition--and kids are paying that price. Childhood obesity studies overwhelmingly show that family meals, limiting television viewing, and getting kids to bed at a reasonable hour are the real keys to helping kids eat right and maintain a healthy weight. A home-packed meal is a part of that.

So maybe, given these latest grim childhood obesity numbers we can hold off on yet again expanding these useless government feeding programs and do something new and cutting edge--encourage parents to take responsibility for feeding their own children.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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