School Food By The NumbersFri 26 Aug 2011
Story by Amy Kafala
• This generation of children will be the first in the nation’s history to live shorter lives than those of their parents. (Centers for Disease Control)
TWO Frightening Facts
• One third of American children are overweight or obese and at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
• A quarter of children age five to ten have elevated blood cholesterol or high blood pressure; both are early warning signs of heart disease.
THREE Pieces Of Good News
• There are now Farm to School programs in all 50 states.
• The USDA has proposed new Federal Standards for all food served in schools.
• Edible school gardens are popping up in urban, suburban and rural school districts all over the US.
FOUR Tools For Advocates
• Lunch Wars How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children’s Health.
• Two Angry Moms Movie, Fighting for the Health of America’s Kids
• Angry Moms A website with resources you can download and share.
• Angry Moms Groupsite An online networking community.
FIVE Tips For Packing School Lunch
• Involve the kids in planning, shopping, preparing
• Make it fun
• Keep it safe
• Vary the menu seasonally
• Use organic ingredients when possible
SIX Scary Things Found In School Meals
• Hydrogenated Oils
• Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
• Genetically Engineered Foods
SEVEN Things You Can Do
• Build Your Food IQ at Home
• Have Lunch with Your Child in the School Cafeteria
• Join a Committee or Coalition
• Teach Food
• Remember it’s not Just About What’s in the Food
• Join the national movement for better food in schools
EIGHT Reasons To Get Involved
• Our government’s own studies have shown that American schools are flunking lunch. A 2007 School Nutrition Dietary Assessment concluded that the vast majority of schools in America exceed USDA guidelines for the quantities of saturated fat, total fat and sodium in school meals.
• The average dollar amount allotted for food cost per school lunch nationwide is barely $1, and 25 cents of that is spent on milk. It’s easy to see why many cafeterias wind up offering energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods just to make the required calorie count.
• The commodity beef and poultry provided free to schools from the USDA is held to lower standards than the standards used in fast-food chains like McDonald’s. In the past decade, the USDA paid $145 million for pet-food grade “spent-hen meat” that went into the school meals program.
• No free water. Even for those kids eligible for free lunch, many schools don’t provide access to clean drinking water throughout the school day. Water fountains are in disrepair and schools now rely on the income from selling bottled water.
• The kids who DON’T buy lunch at school are healthier—and they perform better academically: A 2008 study found that children who bought lunch at school were at an increased risk for being overweight. The study also found that students with a higher consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetables performed better on a standardized literacy assessment, independent of socioeconomic factors. (Science Daily, Mar. 22, 2008).
• The average child will eat 3,000 school lunches between kindergarten and 12th grade. Serving delicious, nutritious, wholesome food could have an enormous impact on our children’s health — and their futures.
• The US per-capita cost of health care for 2002 was approximately $13,500 for people with diabetes, while it was $2560 for those without diabetes.
• It’s not just about obesity and type 2 diabetes. One in four children takes prescription medication daily for chronic illness. Rates of asthma, ADHD, cancer, anxiety and other behavioral disorders are rising among children.
About the author: Amy Kalafa is an award-winning television producer and writer specializing in the field of food, health, wellness and sustainability. She lives in Weston, CT where she and her husband tend a small backyard homestead.
Read the full article here.
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