The Washington Post: Michelle Obama and School Meal Initiative

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The Washington Post: Michelle Obama and School Meal Initiative

Obesity currently affects 23 million children and teenagers and continues to rise.1 In 1980, 6.5% of US children aged 6 to 11 years old were considered obese.  By the year 2008, that percentage rose to approximately 20%.2  A child who is obese has a 70% chance of becoming an obese adult.  If this child has at least one parent who is obese, the child’s chance of becoming obese as an adult increases to 80.2 A study done by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center conducted a study on 1,003 6th graders and found that those children who were obese were more likely to participate in school meal programs than non-obese children.2

On average, approximately 32 million children participate in school meal programs each day.3  Schools enroll 95% of America’s young people and provides one to two meals to the majority of their students.1 Schools are the ideal environment to educate our children about healthy eating habits, and the first way to start is by providing students with healthy meals.

Key stakeholders include students, parents, teachers, administrators, and communities.  Young students are primarily concerned with food that tastes good.  Parents are interested in their children eating healthy breakfasts.  It has been shown that students that eat a healthy breakfast are more attentive in class, and do better on tests.4  Educators are interested in their students doing well on tests, behaving in class, and having fewer absences.  Eating a healthy breakfast has been linked to all of the above. School administrators are interested in their students doing well on tests, but are also concerned with cost effective meals.

Schools should emphasize healthy eating habits, exercising, and educating their students by providing nutritious, healthy school meals that provide a good example for the children they serve.

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5 Responses to “The Washington Post: Michelle Obama and School Meal Initiative”

  1. ehostett Says:

    Healthy school lunches and physical activity in school will be vital components in the American battle against childhood obesity. Looking into healthy school vending machines may also be an important part of the battle. The First Lady has launched the ASAP Innovation competition in order to get more ideas on incorporating physical activity into the school day. Check out her promo video about this competition at the link below.

  2. daniellewiedeman Says:

    Promoting healthy breakfast and lunch options in schools is an essential component to combatting childhood obesity, but reinforcing important eating habits will provide children with the essential attitude and subsequent resources to see this healthy behavior continue into adulthood. It is concerning as to how we can bridge this into the family environment – as many healthy options are twice as expensive. “Food deserts” in particular make this behavior change exceptionally difficult, but I think Michelle Obama is making strides with getting the word out there regarding eating right and the importance of exercise.

  3. haneefasaleem Says:

    I agree that the provision of healthy foods in schools is an important component of efforts to reduce childhood obesity in the U.S. I also think it would be important to intervene in other spheres as well to establish a comprehensive childhood obesity intervention. For example, enacting policies that improve availability and accessibility of health foods or intervening at the household level to promote healthy cooking and eating habits among families.

    I believe that Michelle Obama has done an excellent job of thinking holistically about ways to reduce childhood obesity, with the school meal initiative, which was the focus of your post, but also increasing families’ access to health foods through her initiatives with grocery stores, including Walmart.

  4. jsethness Says:

    While I think that promoting healthy food choices in schools is a great start, I agree with haneefasaleem that a comprehensive program targeting many different aspects of the childhood obesity epidemic is necessary. Looking specifically at school-based interventions, it is important to involve parents in the educational components of healthy eating so that what kids learn in school can be re-enforced at home. As ehostett mentions, physical activity should also be an included; particularly since so many physical education courses have recently been cut in public schools around the country!
    Given the magnitude of participation in the school meal program that you mention, it seems particularly important that the food schools serve meet healthy guidelines. Does anyone know if there are any official guidelines in place yet? Providing healthy meals should extend beyond school grounds as well. If guidelines exist, perhaps they could also be used by non-profit organizations such as food kitchens that provide meals to low-income and homeless individuals or by other federally funded institutions like prisons.

  5. jlweinberg Says:

    Interesting blog! There are so many aspects of “healthy” that go into describing foods that promote health and we seem to just be beginning to recognize some of them. The more obvious calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein content of the foods is a more obvious target. Equally compelling is the content of the food—what is added in terms of preservatives, chemicals, additives, etc. There is mounting evidence that these additions to the food supply impact humans, and especially children, in a multitude of ways. There are so many inputs into the food supply from growing vegetables with pesticides, feeding antibiotics to livestock, processing packaged and other foods with artificial colorings, preservatives and other added unnatural ingredients that there is a lot to consider when deciding what is truly nutritious and healthy.

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