In this week’s news: Parents get schooled about the healthfulness of home versus school lunches; weight-loss study tips the scales in favor of vegan diet; and researchers suggest attempts to reset metabolism are likely futile.
Tag: school lunch
Does the One Percent Eat More Kale?
A 12-year study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health has determined that, although there’s still room for improvement, many Americans have bettered their eating habits over the past decade, upping their consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. That’s the good news. The bad? That positive trend was true only among those higher on the socioeconomic ladder and didn’t hold for lower-income individuals, making them vulnerable to health conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. “Declining diet quality over time may actually widen the gap between the poor and the rich,” study co-author Frank Hu told the Associated Press. Read more
Lunch at many public schools across New York City means chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks and mystery meat sandwiches. But at P.S. 244, The Active Learning Elementary School, in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, the menu sounds like this: Roasted Organic Tofu with Sweet Curry Sauce, Braised Black Beans with Plantains and Herbed Rice Pilaf, Chickpea Falafel with Creamy Tofu Dressing, Lettuce and Tomato and Loco Bread, and Mexican Bean Chili. In April, it became the first public school in the nation to become 100-percent vegetarian. But there’s more. To drink, there’s low-fat milk and water. No juice, no soda. And the salad bar looks like something from a very expensive day spa, not the 24-hour corner mart.
For Bob Groff, a co-founder and the principal of P.S. 244, and the man who turned his menu meatless, the need for better food was obvious. Kids were drinking neon sugary drinks, eating cheese puffs, losing focus and gaining weight. His students were not alone. Nationwide, one in three children and adolescents is obese or overweight, and childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years. “There is a strong correlation between academic achievement and student health and nutrition,” said Groff. “I wanted to prove that better nutrition could make a difference to students’ lives.”
The Spork Set Surprises
Sure, most kids roll their eyes when they hear the phrase “healthy lunch.” (Certain grown-ups, too.) But a funny thing happened on the way to upgrading the nation’s cafeteria meals. Although elementary school students complained when they first tried lunches that met new government standards in 2012, by the end of the school year most actually liked them, according to a just-out survey from the University of Illinois at Chicago. The data, which polled administrators at over 500 primary schools, found that 70 percent agreed strongly that kids liked their new meals (richer in whole grains and produce, and containing less fat). The picture gets even brighter, too. Another study, recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that children’s intake of fruits and vegetables had gone up since the guidelines were implemented. That said, participation in school lunch programs has dropped 3.7 percent since 2010, a slip that some officials worry has to do with these new standards.
In this week’s news: Michelle Obama hits a spork in the road to school lunch reform; researchers give a quick lesson on food costs and weight gain; and a former restaurant critic says it’s time to give up on the miracle diet pills already.
First (Lunch) Lady
Segments of the food industry and Republican legislators have criticized the 2010 federal dietary school lunch standards (called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act), citing lack of flexibility and questioning their cost and effectiveness. The School Nutrition Association, a group representing cafeteria administrators, say enrollment has gone down after the standards — which limit sodium, fat and calories, and require that fruits, vegetables and whole grains replace unhealthy menu choices. Adding bite to that bark is a new measure that would allow poorer school districts to opt out of the program. This week, Michelle Obama has been speaking out strongly against this move, penning a New York Times Op Ed that cites some tough numbers: One in three children is overweight of obese, one in three children is expected to develop diabetes, and currently $190 billion a year is spent treating obesity-related conditions. These lunch regulations can help, says Sam Kass, White House chef and the director of Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, who cites academic studies showing that all children were eating healthier after the standards were established.
What do the lunch lady and First Lady have in common? They’re both making school lunches healthier. Find out why the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (and registered dietitians everywhere) are in favor of new changes in the school cafeteria.
Less than a month ago, Michelle Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced new guidelines for school lunches across the country. Changes to school lunch offerings have been a long time coming. In recent years, nutrition professionals have been making positive strides to improve lunch options, but it’s been hard to make changes stick. These new initiatives shine a light on the importance of making healthy meals that kids actually want to eat.
Kids can now look forward to properly portioned plates featuring more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Trans fats will take a hike and the high amounts of sodium packed into meals will be reduced.
A popular debate over chocolate milk has also been settled. According to the new guidelines, cafeterias will now serve low-fat plain and nonfat chocolate milk to help balance out the extra sugary calories in the chocolate version.
Since school may be the only consistent source of food for low-income families, some institutions are moving to providing 3 meals a day to students in need. In December 2010, President Obama signed a bill to help make this possible.