Odd that the Michelle-mandated meals have been deemed skimpy and terrible by students yet they are causing children to become fat. But that’s what happens when you get government involved.
Via Daily Mail: Government-funded school meals are driving the obesity epidemic, a new study warns.
Millions of low-income families rely on subsidized breakfast and lunches at public school to feed their children. But a landmark paper has concluded these fat- and meat-heavy dishes are putting children at risk of being overweight.
It is a damning indictment of Michelle Obama’s years-long meal program.
‘While well-intentioned, these government funded school meal programs that are aimed at making kids healthy are in fact making participating students more at risk of being overweight,’ said Wen You, associate professor of agricultural and applied economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
‘This study identifies the hardest battles in crafting policy to alleviate children in low-income populations being overweight.’
The study, published in the journal Health Economics, found that children are more likely to be overweight if they participate in both the school breakfast and lunch programs throughout their schooling years.
That means half their nutrition comes from college kitchens. The longer children participated in school meal programs, the more likely they were to be obese.
‘We found that the longer children were in the programs, the higher their risk of being overweight. We also saw the most negative effect of the government-funded school meal programs in the South, the Northeast, and rural areas of the country,’ You said.
‘The question now is what to do in order to not just fill bellies, but make sure those children consume healthy and nutritious food – or at least not contribute to the obesity epidemic.’
They found that long-term participation posed the largest risk of being overweight.
The study utilized a nationally representative longitudinal data of 21, 260 students who were followed from kindergarten to eighth grade and controlled for the self-selection and income effects to examine school meal programs’ influence on student’s body mass index z-score changes.
The study utilized statistical methods to match students who were eligible and chose not to participate in the school meal programs with students who chose to participate to ensure comparability. The team also examined a subgroup of students who changed their program participation status along the way and confirmed the short-term risk of being overweight imposed by the school lunch program.
The study reveals the need for improving the school meal programs’ effectiveness at promoting better nutrition among school-age children.
Although the research is limited at looking at the school meal programs as a whole, it uncovers the need to go beyond merely raising nutrition standards.
The authors say policymakers need to comprehensively design programs to enable schools to provide healthy food that meets standards and is appetizing to children. ‘Policymakers need to consider all the aspects of school meal programs – from availability and affordability to nutritional content and tastiness. It is important to have extra policy support that will allow funding for programs such as chef-to-school and farm-to-school, as well as culinary training for cafeteria staff so kids actually enjoy eating what is ultimately prepared for them,’ said You.
‘This study also helps to identify the regions that are most in need and calls for targeted policy design,’ she said.