Why School Lunches Could Be Adding to the Obesity Epidemic
Educating your children about food and providing healthy options is key when it comes to tackling childhood obesity.
The idea of incorporating snacks into the school day derived from a practice used for diabetics that uses small meals throughout the day to help keep blood sugar steady, says Hew. “However, the snacks that are offered to children would kill a diabetic – crackers, cookies, Cheerios and juice,” she says.
Cooking Up Change
In order to prompt change, parents need to offer solutions and suggestions to school districts and school board members. Offering a viable solution that is realistic with decreased school budgets is key.
“I would love to see schools engage with the community by going to local farmers or food co-ops and cutting cheap or free deals to absorb their leftover produce or produce that isn’t perfect for selling at the stand but can still be salvaged for making soups, stews and salads,” says Hew.
Another inexpensive option would be to recruit culinary students to complete internships in the schools as apprenticing or head chefs under the supervision of the person who normally is in charge of budgeting, suggests Hew. This economically-appealing option would give interns the opportunity to practice their skills, prepare healthy, innovative meals for school lunches and afford the district with a cost-effective option.
Parents can also advocate for a food service system that offers more natural products, says Prebish. “If this is not an option, work with your food service provider to determine more healthful substitutions that the children will also enjoy,” she says. “Try for more natural, and even organic, products wherever possible.”
In addition to working with food service systems, make yourself known at school board meetings. Parents can work to improve lunch selections by speaking to the board, the community and fellow parents. At each meeting try to provide a suggestion for healthier options, such as replacing meat-based burgers with veggie burgers.
According to Dr. Timothy Radak, faculty member in the Public Health program at Walden University, veggie burgers typically have one-third the amount of fat, no cholesterol and are similar in regards to the amount of protein as meat-based burgers.
Suggest cost-saving, evidence-based ideas to show the benefits to the district’s bottom line and the overall health of each student on campus. Schools could also reduce or eliminate some foods with health risks, such as red meat, processed foods or sugary drinks, says Radak. “Use the cost savings to provide more fresh fruits, vegetables and low fat, nutritious meal options.”