A recent Associated Press article focused on a number of schools that had pulled out of the healthier new federal lunch program. Schools only received an additional 6 cents per meal federal subsidy for serving healthier meals, and some said their cafeterias were losing money due to the number of students passing up the meals served at school.
Meal subsidies vary, but range close to $3 per meal for low-income students on the free lunch program.
That came just one year after the launch of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 went into effect, with new dietary guidelines calling for increased availability of fruits, and whole grains in the school menu. Guidelines also set new calorie limits for different grade levels. A spokesperson for the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the grants, balked at the report, insisting the vast majority of schools are meeting the updated meal standards.
We hope they are. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control revealed that about a third of Americans are obese. About one in five people in the leanest state in the survey — Colorado — were obese. Alabama ranked in the fattest category once again, with more than 30 percent of the population tipping the scales with unhealthy weights. We weren’t alone. Thirteen states topped the 30 percent mark.
Pinecrest principal Gary Rivers noted that Alabama always seems to be in the top three states in obesity rankings, and the school needs to do its part to offset that. “The best time is when students are young, to help change their eating and exercise habits,” he said.
He credited fourth-grade teacher Pam Roberts as being the brainchild behind the wellness push at the school. She is basing some of her science and math lessons on health and nutrition, and even cooking skills, to help children learn better health habits while mastering course of study objectives.
Obesity carries with it risks to heart health, diabetes, quality of life, increased healthcare costs and decreased lifespans. It can be tough to make dietary changes; it can take a while to adjust to new foods and calorie counts.
Making the adjustments to school lunches to help accomplish that for a new generation seems to be a sensible approach to better health for the nation.