Most kids who eat lunch at school participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). According to recently released statistics, the NSLP served over 31 million lunches in 2008. That’s a lot of lunches! And that’s a lot of students. Any school that participates in the NSLP receives cash subsidies and donated commodities (foods) from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Schools participating in the NSLP must meet the 2005 Dietary Guidelines that require that lunches have no more than 30% of calories from fat and less than 10% from saturated fat. School lunches must also provide one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances of protein, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and calories.
With obesity among our nation’s youth growing at an alarmingly high rate, school lunch is one way we can positively influence our youth. The most recent data shows that the prevalence of obesity has increased dramatically in the years 1976-1980 to 2011-2012:
So what do all of these numbers really mean for parents, educators and healthcare providers? Childhood obesity has numerous health-related consequences. Weight-related problems in children can contribute to high cholesterol, asthma, Type 2 diabetes, sleep disorders and social discrimination, to name a few.
With so many children receiving their meals through the school lunch program, it is a great place to start having a positive impact on combating childhood obesity.
We can take advantage of this very large and captive student body by:
What are some ways you can help your school lunch program?
By now you should be asking yourself, “What do we need to change?” Read, “School Lunch Program: Food for Thought,” for more information.