What did you get? 'A 95.' That isn't good...
January 8, 2007 12:58 PM   Subscribe

The right approach in dealing with childhood obesity? Several states in the US are handing out body mass "report cards" to better inform parents on the issue of childhood obeseity. Is this an effective tactic or will it lead to an increase in weight problems in the future?
posted by portisfreak (63 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Of course, I can't even spell obesity corectly more than once.
posted by portisfreak at 1:00 PM on January 8, 2007

How about if you play this song instead?
posted by wheelieman at 1:07 PM on January 8, 2007

The school district has revamped its menus, eliminating . . . the powdered sugar from the funnel cakes.

WTF. Why are they selling funnel cake at all? Save the carnival food for the carnival.

Karen Sick, food services director

Heh heh.
posted by amro at 1:09 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

good god, wheelieman. that was nightmarish.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:10 PM on January 8, 2007

Wow wheelieman, my 4th grade gym teacher used to play that chicken fat record. I had not thought of it since. Thanks for the blast from the past.
posted by vronsky at 1:13 PM on January 8, 2007

Friends of mine have received "the your kid is getting fat" letter, however, their kids are not at all overweight or unhealthy. As a matter of fact both kids eat very well/healthy, are very active, play sports and are all muscle. If anything the little girl is UNDER weight. BMI index, my ass.
posted by goml at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2007

No joke, amro. Removing the powdered sugar from the deep-fried dough simply makes it artery-clogging and flavorless.
posted by hermitosis at 1:19 PM on January 8, 2007

Two problems with this: First, what goml said; second, the BMI is not even valid for kids. From the NIH BMI site:
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both adult men and women.
Note that the bold emphasis is compied from the site and is not mine.
posted by Doohickie at 1:23 PM on January 8, 2007

Hey, kids need some message to counteract the ones they get from a culture where the popular kids are always fat and every actress on TV wears at least a size 14.
posted by transona5 at 1:23 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Doohickie, did you read this link from the FPP?
posted by amro at 1:26 PM on January 8, 2007

Hey, if the Ramen Noodles guy lived to be 93, maybe they should just give everyone Ramen Noodles and be done with it (would save a heckuva lot of money too!)
posted by Doohickie at 1:29 PM on January 8, 2007

transona5 wins.
posted by davy at 1:30 PM on January 8, 2007

amro.... D'oh!

st00pid me!
posted by Doohickie at 1:31 PM on January 8, 2007

Sometimes parents do need to be told what should be blindingly obvious to them. If that means something like this, so be it. It's better than the kid killing himself through bad food and no exercise, or after being harassed and bullied for being morbidly obese.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:32 PM on January 8, 2007

It is depressing how fat kids are now. I don't think telling children that they are fat, you know officially is very good way to handle the problem. I wouldn't allow soda in public schools. Or desert other than fruit. Or french fries, or any of the things that everyone knows are bad for you. Public schools shouldn't be venders of food that runs counter to living a healthy lifestyle. Serving one maybe two legitimately healthy meals a day would go a long way towards making eating healthy normal rather than an aberation, if parents want to feed their kids things that will make them less healthy they can do that, but they shouldn't be able to have the state foist their ultimately perverse notions of what constitutes a nutritious meal on everyone else.
posted by I Foody at 1:43 PM on January 8, 2007

WTF. Why are they selling funnel cake at all? Save the carnival food for the carnival.

Dude? What else goes with the deep fried twinkies, chili dogs and cotton candy? Funnel cakes are the fourth food group.

Friends of mine have received "the your kid is getting fat" letter, however, their kids are not at all overweight or unhealthy.

No, no, no. You misunderstood. It was spelled P-H-a-t. As in phat. Which meant your friends kids are spending too much time busting out rhymes and hanging wit dey posse. Those kids are phat!
posted by tkchrist at 1:48 PM on January 8, 2007

Recently, there have been some studies showing that parents really aren't aware when their children are overweight. I suppose this is intended to counteract that, in case the parents aren't already hearing it from doctors for whatever reason.
posted by dilettante at 1:55 PM on January 8, 2007

if parents want to feed their kids things that will make them less healthy they can do that, but they shouldn't be able to have the state foist their ultimately perverse notions of what constitutes a nutritious meal on everyone else.

I agree.

We make our kids lunches. Well. Sort of.

Only on Mondays. On Mondays we make our kids take a live Springbok or Antelope with them to school with strict instructions to the cafeteria management to release the animal at lunch and have our kids chase it down, kill it, and eat it.

Our children can then, if they are prudent, either trade organ meats to the other kids for the occasional soda OR bury the remains in the playground and eat for the rest of the week.

So many valuable lessons taught. Stalking a kill. Anatomy. Basic economics. And they get their exercise!

We have no regrets in adopting the "Neanderthal Diet For Kids!".

Though occasionally I have to chastise the seven year old for wearing the bloody skulls to class - what a rascal. Eh. Kids.
posted by tkchrist at 1:56 PM on January 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

I remember being a kid (in fact I remember being a chubby kid). Vigilance on the part of the school and one's parents to provide healthy food simply increases the "guilty pleasure" allure of junk food. If I was sent to school with a lunch containing a turkey sandwich and an apple, you can bet your ass I brought enough change to school to buy a couple of sno-cones. When nothing sweet was for sale from the school, I always knew which kids kept cases of M&M's or Bubble Tape in their lockers and would sell to whomever. Clamping down on this just drives kids' agendas underground, it teaches them to sneak and pilfer, to gorge when they get a chance to, and to cover their tracks however they can.

Schools are institutional, neutral places. The stimulation and joy that junk food brings are savored as the bright points of one's day. The same could be said for any dull work environment, except kids have so much less experience in changing the way they feel or what their habits are. Though any kid knows which foods are "healthy", it takes kids a really long time to really grasp how cause-and-effect really applies to their bodies and their minds, and in the meantime, they just get by however they can.

The key to curbing bad eating habits doesn't lie in stamping out the sources of junk food in schools (which will never be 100% possible) but in making sure that kids get the individual attention necessary to help them feel engaged, stimulated, and confident in other ways. But it's cheaper to treat the symptoms (such as obesity) than the disease (stifling, institutionalized, overcrowded school systems) in order to feel like we're helping our kids.
posted by hermitosis at 2:01 PM on January 8, 2007

I just wish someone would have sent a letter to my parents saying "Your fat tub o' guts son is an affront to nature and decency, you must be awful people", etc. I am sure it would have been an excellent tool to motivate positive change. Much better than taking the soda and candy machines out.
posted by Mister_A at 2:06 PM on January 8, 2007

i think in "super size me" there's a whole section explaining how public schools are phasing out physical education. i know that we had pizza and crap when i was in elementary school, but we also had recess and about an hour a day in the gym. in jr high and high school, we had PE as a requirement, as well. it got to where i would take some PE classes extra because i liked the activity, and i like living an active lifestyle now that i'm almost 30. so, i think not only is the food to blame (and the rediculous amounts of vending mahcines! grr!) but the lack of physical education as well.
posted by lisalisa123 at 2:07 PM on January 8, 2007

Okay. I'm a parent, so I get to have an opinion on this. Heh.

1. If you make a child's weight a subject of child/parent conflict, you will likely exacerbate the problem rather than solve it.

2. If you make a child's weight a question of "your kid is fat" instead of "your kid is not getting a healthy diet from you or from us", you're shifting the blame to the victim.

3. Kids have enough trouble dealing with their weight problem without other kids comparing report cards and speculating (out loud in public) about the score the "fat kid" got.

I'm not saying that a child doesn't bear responsibility for their condition; however, for all of their elementary (and some of their high school) careers, the vast majority of nutritional options come from their parents and their school.

If the parents are providing crap for meals, the kid's going to eat crap at home, and a report card isn't going to solve anything, just like a poor report card doesn't magically inspire parents to sit down with their kids and help them with their homework.

If the school is providing crap for meals, then you're sending mixed messages, and that's never a good idea for teaching children the right thing to do.

A much more effective solution, it seems to me, might be this:

a) serve healthy foods at school, period. No partially hydrogenated oils, no enriched flours, no corn syrup. They may miss the sodas and candy, but they'll never notice the missing bad ingredients in most foods -- heck, I've got cookies and snack foods at home that are healthier than salads from McDonalds.

b) send (to the parents directly) a menu of the foods kids are served at school, with the brands, etc., and where to get similar foods, and the types of ingredients that should be avoided. A parent who cares about their kid's nutrition will appreciate this information, and a parent who doesn't care wouldn't be swayed by a report card, either.

Will kids go outside of school to get crap food? Yes, but if you feed them good stuff when they're in 3rd grade, by the time they reach that level of autonomy in high school they'll be in a much better position to make choices that make them happy, without it being threatening to their newfound sense of independence.
posted by davejay at 2:09 PM on January 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

> handing out body mass "report cards"

I ate mine. It tasted better than the tofu and sprouts.

Seriously, we should eat what our ancestors were evolved to eat: 95% roots 'n' berries, 5% opportunistic animal protein (grubs, centipedes, baby birds, Olduvai roadkill the vultures left.)

(fuller eats, shoots, and leaves.)
posted by jfuller at 2:09 PM on January 8, 2007

The key to curbing bad eating habits doesn't lie in stamping out the sources of junk food in schools

I disagree, and will also cite "Super Size Me." One school for kids with discipline problems had a HUGE turnaround after they changed their food system to be all natural and well-cooked, nutritional meals. No junk food, no sodas allowed anywhere inside the school. The changes in focus and concentration were touted by all. I think it would be wonderful if we could make this change in all schools - it makes no sense to feed kids junk.
posted by agregoli at 2:11 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

A lifestyle for the US that's dedicated to eating food that's made of food would go a long way to fixing the problem.

Sugar instead of High Fructose Corn Syrup. Less Calories, Less blood sugar impact.

No more partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils. If you want a goddamned fat that's solid at room temperature, use butter. Quit fucking up foods because you want a longer shelf life.

The list could go on and on. But it's a huge fucking start.
posted by Lord_Pall at 2:13 PM on January 8, 2007

davejay, you rock!
posted by lisalisa123 at 2:13 PM on January 8, 2007

I'm just saying that a kid who gets healhy meals at home and healthy meals at school is possibly all the more likely to seek out the thrill of junk food wherever they can find it, and they WILL find it. Fixing one part of the problem without fixing the others subverts the entire dual-pronged problem, which is:

A) the availability of junk food


B) the source of people's uncontrollable desire for junk food
posted by hermitosis at 2:16 PM on January 8, 2007

Junk to me begets junk. The more good food you eat, the less you really want junk. Try eating no high fructose corn syrup for a month and then having candy with it as the main ingredient - it's disgusting, when you're used to natural sugars.

Get 'em while they are young, with healthy foods, just like the junk food players try to. There's no reason not to try.
posted by agregoli at 2:19 PM on January 8, 2007

Related previous thread-- Lunch in loud, brightly lit rooms.
posted by ericb at 2:23 PM on January 8, 2007

Regarding school lunch programs, I admire British chef Jamie Oliver for his efforts to reform school lunch/dinner programs in England and here in the U.S.

Oliver's Feed Me Better campaign.
posted by ericb at 2:26 PM on January 8, 2007

Didn't the french try this?
posted by craniac at 2:38 PM on January 8, 2007

Schools are sending out these letters because they imagine (mistakenly) it will reduce the incidence of parents suing them for contributing to the obesity of students, since, having made attendance mandatory long ago, schools are now more and more tending to eliminate recess, sports teams, and PE classes as a means of cutting the budget-- and because teachers are too afraid to go out on the playground, which is scheduled to become a parking lot anyway, since teachers have to commute to schools in neighborhoods too expensive for them, or too dangerous, or both.
posted by jamjam at 2:53 PM on January 8, 2007

I totally agree with agregoli. It's about feeding kids the right food (at school and at home) then they're less likely to want to eat crap. That and educating kids about nutrition. These seem to be much better and more constructive approaches then finger pointing...
posted by ob at 2:55 PM on January 8, 2007

I didn't want to post on the FPP, but my favorite excerpts from the article:

Children who are merely big “pick on skinnier kids because they don’t like their own weight,” said Cassie Allen, a wiry ninth grader at Mansfield Junior-Senior High School who has been taunted as anorexic, as she and her friends sat over a lunch of brown-edged iceberg lettuce piled with artificial bacon bits and neat discs of chicken parmesan in the cafeteria.

On a recent school trip to New York, the girls felt like visitors from a different, chubbier planet, they said.

“They’re all this big,” said Cassie Chase, holding her arms close together, “and we’re all this big,” she said, flinging them wide open.

Holly Berguson, the homecoming queen at North Penn Junior-Senior High School here, wears a size 20, a fact cited by her many admirers as proof of this community’s generous attitude toward weight, its proud indifference to the “Baywatch” bodies on television.

“I don’t care how big I am,” said Holly, 17, who is insulin resistant, a condition that often precedes Type 2 diabetes. “It’s not what you look like, it’s who you are.”

I'm not that much older than these kids (22), but dear god, what happened in the four years since I got out of high school?
posted by portisfreak at 3:19 PM on January 8, 2007

There was this story in Reader's Digest...

Family never buys grapes because of some political thing about grape growers and fair trade and pesticide use. Exact reasons are unimportant. Kids are otherwise healthy eaters. One day at a buffet, kids are told they can have whatever they want. So they all rush to the fruit plate and begin gorging themselves on grapes.
posted by GuyZero at 3:22 PM on January 8, 2007

A) the availability of junk food


B) the source of people's uncontrollable desire for junk food

One is connected to the other. Make it less available, wean the kids off it... and the carb/GI spike followed by the cravings for more will lessen, and they'll lose the taste for the really crap stuff. Also, it would help if parents/schools taught appreciation for good, fresh and higher quality stuff. One square of really good dark chocolate beats a whole Coffee Crisp any day.

Just don't make a huge production out of it. As long as it isn't made out to be forbidden, kids will stop wanting it so much.
posted by Zinger at 4:20 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Schools are already doing enough functions parents should be doing in the first place. This is just another bad idea.
posted by owillis at 4:34 PM on January 8, 2007

Make it less available, wean the kids off it.

because we all know telling kids they can't have or do something makes them have absolutely no interest in having or doing it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:53 PM on January 8, 2007

Whatever happened to the stupid President's Physical Fitness test. While I loathed it, it still seems like a semi-accurate indication of your child's fitness level.

As much as I hear about standardized testing taking over public schools, I'm surprised everyone isn't required to take the PPF every year.

Again, while I hated most of it, the test was fairly accurate about what areas I need to improve in. It seems like specific health/fitness info is more helpful than BMI reports. Doctors can give you those. Fitness professionals should be much more useful.

on preview: Schools are already doing enough functions parents should be doing in the first place. This is just another bad idea.

amen. you can move on to the fat kids *only* after you teach everyone how to read.

posted by mrgrimm at 4:57 PM on January 8, 2007

If the kids want it, they will be able to find it. And the food appreciation idea is great in theory, but children don't discern the same qualities from foods that adults do. No kid loses their taste for cake and ice cream just because they haven't had it in a really long time-- or at least, the level of enforcement required to change that are not a challenge that most parents could rise to.

Making it less available means having control over where your kids are and who they are with at all times, and is impossible. When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to watch rated-R movies at home, and surely not at school. And so I made friends with people whose parents didn't mind, and thus I got to see everything I wanted anyway. I can't believe people don't get this-- reducing the availability of something just makes that thing more attractive. Look at smoking in adolescents: cigarettes are harder for them to acquire than ever, and have a greater stigma than ever, and they are still smoking em up in staggering numbers.

That's why I'm asserting that limiting availability is only the tip of the iceberg, and that the rest of it doesn't have anything to do with changing kids' minds about what food to like. It's about changing what it's like to be a kid, and what it's like to be in school, and changing what kids value overall, so that people are raised with a more humane understanding of life, instead of funnelled through junior penal colonies.
posted by hermitosis at 5:00 PM on January 8, 2007

And that's the job of parents. School's for learning, and nationally we're doing a crap job of that without also weighing everyone.
posted by owillis at 6:20 PM on January 8, 2007

Actually I believe teen smoking is down from 10 years ago, though it is apparently plateauing. I wasn't allowed to see "R" movies as a kid, so I didn't see them - not too complicated.
posted by owillis at 6:22 PM on January 8, 2007

Schools are already doing enough functions parents should be doing in the first place. This is just another bad idea.

i agree. what ever happened to reading, writing and 'rithmetic'?
posted by brandz at 6:28 PM on January 8, 2007

Whatever happened to the stupid President's Physical Fitness test. While I loathed it, it still seems like a semi-accurate indication of your child's fitness level.

Puh-lease. That stupid test consisted of giving humiliating tests every other year that I repeatedly failed and nobody in authority did anything about. At least, that's how it was in the 70s.
posted by JanetLand at 6:30 PM on January 8, 2007

I say we go back to the method public school used in the 70s and 80s: make the school lunches so unappealing (square pizza topped with suspiciously canine sausage, cold tater tots, peas and carrots encased in fucking jello) that we lost all positive associations with food and could burn off our measly calorie intake during our 45-minute meanders around the track during "gym." Thank god for the still-legal smoking areas, or I would have had no notion of pleasure at all.

Seriously, though, our high school had two soda machines that we could only use before and after school.
posted by bibliowench at 6:51 PM on January 8, 2007

I think the schools ought to sell only healthy food, including from the damn vending machines. If your school district has to sell Twinkies by the dozen to make ends meet maybe you ought to raise taxes.

As for reading', writin' & 'rithmetic, ain't the schools teaching those subjects adequately already? If not why not? Could it be that, as evidenced by the content of school lunches, idiots are in charge?
posted by davy at 7:11 PM on January 8, 2007

I can't believe people don't get this-- reducing the availability of something just makes that thing more attractive.

I just don't think this is true when it comes to food. People tend to eat what they are used to eating.
When I was little my sister and I were only allowed to drink soft drinks and candy "on the weekends". In general we had healthy eating habits. We continued those eating habits when we had greater autonomy from our parents (highschool) and after we moved out of the house... we didn't run out and start binging on sugar and soft drinks. To this day I drink less soda than any of my friends.

On the other hand, my cousins were allowed to eat whatever they wanted (usually hot dogs and hamburgers), and even though they are adults now, that's still all they eat.

I think by saying that "the thing will just be more attractive" is missing the essential point - that only QUANTITY of the bad food is harmful. Even if forbidding marshmellows makes your eight year old REALLY WANT marshmellows, how many chances are they going to have to gorge themselves on marshmellows behind your back? Ideally, you have some reasonable degree of control over your child's eating habits until they are at least 11. If they don't grasp the importance of eating healthfully on their own by that point, then that seems like a different problem.
posted by crackingdes at 8:29 PM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Although I should add... In general I agree with you hermitosis. Public schools completely suck. There's a general aura of despair and hopelessness which undoubtedly contributes to the problems children experience, whether those are emotional or physical.
posted by crackingdes at 8:31 PM on January 8, 2007

We can't absolutely stop kids from eating crap, so let's not do anything.

Especially about crappy child-focused advertising, crappy advertising-sponsored childrens' activities, and a general complacency about doing a damned thing pro-active about the problem.

posted by five fresh fish at 9:13 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

And in the same vein as crackingdes's story, so goes mine. My access to junk food as a kid growing up was extremely restricted. Throughout my teen years I was unaddicted to junk food. As an adult, the only sodas and candies I partake are found at parties. On the whole, I simply dislike junk food. Potato chips are gross; cheap chocolate is gross; processed foods are yucky.

Kids only become addicted to crap food if that's what they are fed. Feed them good food and they'll choose it over junk food when they're older.

The same applies to television, books, and social activities.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:19 PM on January 8, 2007

We send out letters to kids who are failing academically. We do it to inform parents so they can (hopefully) help get their kids back on track. Why shouldn't we do the same if the kids are failing physically?

Also, I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in your state standards in PE that kids should "maintain a healthy lifestyle." So being obese wouldn't be that different than being below grade level in reading or math.

If our schools are supposed to help prepare children for their futures I don't see why physical health shouldn't be included in that.
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 9:37 PM on January 8, 2007

How about we first address the issue regarding food regulation and corporatism? If the food manufactured is bad for us, why is our government allowing the corporations to sell the shit?

Oh noes! That would be "Bad For Business".

Excuse me, but, so what? Isn't this supposed to be about what is good for people? Take Coke. They chose to switch to high-fructose corn syrup. Let them choose to go back to cane sugar, or 'choose' to go out of business. If a corporation can't operate profitably while being responsible, they don't deserve any profits, and most especially, they don't deserve the special priveledge of operating as a corporate person.

We got this thing called government. As intended, at least in the United States, it's supposed to run for the benefit of the people. Not the corporations. But too many of us have drunk the koolaid that what is good for corporations is good for us. Obviously, sometimes true! But not always, and why should those holy profits be so easy, anyway? Make 'em work for it! Not just paying off some damned politicians.

As for the kids themselves: It's amazingly simple. If they're obese, no driver's education, no driver's license. That'll work in most places in the States, although not so good in lots of the cities.
posted by Goofyy at 11:35 PM on January 8, 2007

They might start by preventing "physical education" classes from being what they really are 99% of the time - "bully the unpopular kids" classes.

A large percentage of people who don't exercise in adulthood do so because to them, exercise has become synonymous with cruelty, hatred, and extremely low self-image. I know people who would literally shoot themselves in the head rather than "get active" because they associate getting active with years of horrible humiliation.
posted by watsondog at 1:26 AM on January 9, 2007

watsondog: WTF are you doing, inside my head!

Apart from the bullying, in my specific case, I also associated the bullying and bullshit with straight guys, which helped confirm my willingness to embrace being gay. I wanted nothing to do with those cretins.
posted by Goofyy at 2:45 AM on January 9, 2007

wheelieman! How kewl is that? I remember that from fifth grade. You rock!
posted by pax digita at 4:29 AM on January 9, 2007

Now that that's out of my system, why not teach kids to do stuff they'll be able to use throughout their lives, like yoga and tai chi chuan? It'd go a long way to reducing the bully factor -- the jocks would find themselves on pretty much an equal footing with the short li'l fat boys. It's nicely low-impact and is all about flexibility, fluid movement and coordination, less about feats of peak strength. You can't really go out and play kickball worth a damn when you're in your 60s and 70s, but this stuff, you can do, and it'll help your body respond to the challenges of aging a bit more gracefully.
posted by pax digita at 4:38 AM on January 9, 2007

Well, if they have PE at all, which many, many schools do not. As a parent I'd have no problem at all with my kids' BMI being on their report card and I think the schools should be addressing the nutrition issue as well as teaching the "3 Rs". Education doesn't exist in a vacuum, after all. You can't simply teach one thing and ignore everything around it; life is cross curricular. Not to mention that teaching anything at all to 30 4th graders hyped up on high fructose corn syrup is ridiculous. Pull the junk food & the vending machines out of the schools (sure, kids will always get to junk food, but why make it so easy for them?), put PE and recess back in, by all means, but then be aware that there's a huge cultural problem that has to be faced. Awareness is a good start. Maybe some of those parents will listen to a report card where they won't to anyone else.

Anecdotal: I see a LOT of obese kids coming into the museum where I work and the number just keeps going up. A frightening proportion of them are accompanied by their obese parents - a couple weeks ago I even had the obese mother urging her probably 10 year old, probably almost 200 pound son to buy sugar candy (yeah, we sell rock candy; we're evil) even though he really didn't want it. There are a lot of people like that out there. If report cards will get through to them, then send them damn report cards. You think that kid and his classmates are going to have such a great quality of life unless things change?
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:58 AM on January 9, 2007

Articles like this one on Salon ("Green eggs and irradiated ham") are telling. A sample:
In the past three years, May has quietly introduced fresh-cooked meals made with fresh food at Healdsburg schools -- and the kids have eaten it up. Using a school garden (cultivated with grant money) and government commodity foods, which many districts reject because you have to cook them, May has served school lunches of roast chicken and new potatoes, rice pilaf, cucumber salads, vegetable sticks with almond butter or ranch dressing dip -- mouth-watering stuff -- and two things have happened: The participation in the school lunch program has gone up 30 percent, even among full-paying students, and May has come in under budget.
Contrast that with a Washington Post story I wrote about a few years ago (the link is no longer functional). Why does the federal government play cheerleader for the milk industry? By requiring milk to be a part of reimbursed school lunches, they’re giving the big players in the dairy business an unfair advantage, and by requiring a doctor’s note for the lactose-intolerant black kid (in the original story) to get soy milk instead, they're not only playing nutritional favorites, they're making it deliberately difficult for children to maintain their own health.

On a slightly different note, did anyone see that recent Jamie Oliver series where he travelled through Italy? He stopped at an Italian primary school and checked out the kitchen operations (everything from scratch, all looked like something I'd willingly eat) -- then talked to the kids, who could (at kindergarten age) readily identify every vegetable shown to them, and who really appreciated the good food they were being served... well, as much as 5-year-olds do, anyway.

Personally, I think the lazy school lunch people are to blame, too. They'd rather microwave a few burritos than take the Healdsburg path. My mom's a school photographer, so she sees her fair share of school cafeterias statewide, and not one of them serves food you'd consider remotely healthy, from the sound of it.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:22 AM on January 9, 2007

At my highschool, they had 4-5 lunch lines every day. Only ONE would serve anything nutritious. The other 3 or 4 served ONLY: pizza and french fries.

Every fucking day. Pizza and french fries.

The other line would, in addition to the pizza and fries, have something such as chicken nuggets, maybe spaghetti, maybe a burger. Or you could get a soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a nasty ass looking salad.

They eventually introduced fruit cups, which the lunch ladies would give to most kids for free by the third lunch, because no one took them, since fruit and pizza don't quite go together apparently.

Obviously you could say kids could bring their own lunch but how many teenagers are going to turn down pizza and fries every day? They're going to spend their morning making a healthy lunch? Nuh uh. Most of their parents are probably too busy working to teach the kids what a healthy meal is, and they're not eating healthy either.

So when you get 20 minutes for lunch and it takes 15 to go through a line, and there are 4 lines with JUST pizza and fries, you're gonna eat the junk.

I wish my school had sent me home with a letter saying I was overweight, cause my parents sure as hell weren't doing anything to help. I wish someone there had had the balls to say you don't fucking eat pizza and fries every day and you can't teach kids that it's okay.
posted by jesirose at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2007

PS: We only had gym class for two out of four years - then it was optional.
posted by jesirose at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2007

The focus solely weight rather than actual health is pretty damaging to kids, and there have been a few articles published recently about younger and younger children of both sexes are being diagnosed with eating disorders as a result of the never-ending obesity talk.

If authorities were truly concerned about kids' health, they'd ensure every parent could earn a living wage without having to work 70 hours a week, had access to proper, affordable, child care if needed, that fresh food was available at reasonable prices, that every kid could get good health care, that urban planning included safe footpaths, bike trails, and adequate community space, and so on. But instead, it's easier to blame individuals (especially kids who are at the mercy of their caregivers) than ensure an environment where people are able to have a sporting chance.
posted by sataystick at 4:29 PM on January 9, 2007

Canucks: are there any school lunch programs in your area that are serving up shite for food?

I know that in my district a number of schools have a once-a-week/month "hot lunch" opt-in program that costs a few bucks, and generally serves up pizza and such. It's not offered as a regular lunch program, but as a fund-raising event.

I think the school vending machines (which I think went in only within the last fifteen or so years; I'm pretty sure there were none when I was in school) are now serving only healthy snacks.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:35 PM on January 9, 2007

As a Canadian (Toronto - Etobicoke School Board), we didn't have any lunch programs in junior/middle school. They sold nothing at my first school, only milk and juice at my second school (grade 3 to 5), and a school organisation sold chicken soup during the winter at my middle school (grade 6 to 8) - I volunteered for that organisation to get the free soup (otherwise it cost 25 or 50 cents). So basically everyone's lunches were determined by their parents, and mine were almost always peanut butter sandwiches, juice and cookies. We did have special occaision "pizza days" and "hot dog days".

In my high school, there was a cafeteria, but it was very expensive and only some people ate there. After two years, they shut down the cafeteria, and replaced it with Tim Hortons and Pizza Pizza stands. I mostly remember the coffee/hot chocolate machine. And still the majority packed their lunches.

So that's a long response to say that we don't really seem to have school lunches like Americans or Brits -- yet we have a similar level of obesity (inbetween the two, I think). So maybe school lunches aren't the big issue.

I know that I gained a lot of weight as a child when I broke my ankle and stopped running around all the time. It was about the same time that I started riding a school bus for 2-3 hours a day.
posted by jb at 3:18 AM on January 10, 2007

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