Friday, December 6th, 2013
The school lunch “hour” is a misnomer at schools across the country, many of which give students as little as 15 minutes to eat lunch. NPR reports:
At many public schools today, kids are lucky to get more than 15 minutes to eat. Some get even less time.
And parents and administrators are concerned that a lack of time to eat is unhealthful, especially given that about one-third of American kids are overweight or obese.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that students get at least 20 minutes for lunch. But that means 20 minutes to actually sit down and eat — excluding time waiting in line or walking from class to cafeteria.
At Oakland High [in California], over 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. And officially, students get about 40 minutes for the meal. But Jennifer LeBarre, Oakland Unified School District’s nutrition services director, admits that the actual table time is far shorter. At times it’s just 10 minutes.
“I think it’s a legitimate complaint that there’s not enough time to eat,” LeBarre says. “If we are being asked to eat our lunch in 10 minutes, that’s not enough for us. So I really think we need to really work more for the 20-minute table time.”
Oakland High is hardly alone. In a wide-ranging by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 20 percent of parents of students from kindergarten through fifth grade surveyed said their child only gets 15 minutes or less to eat.
Ironically, relatively new federal school-nutrition guideline changes may be making the situation worse. Under federal rules, schools have to increase the availability and consumption of fruits and vegetables — among other changes. It’s part of an effort to improve nutrition and combat childhood obesity.
But eating more healthful foods can take more time, LeBarre says. “It’s going to take longer to eat a salad than it will to eat french fries.”
Image: School lunch box, via Shutterstock
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Friday, November 8th, 2013
Some parents who are unhappy with a Tennessee high school’s lunchtime program that separates students who are under-performing academically so they can receive additional instruction while they eat, calling the program “segregation” that is unfairly punishing kids who struggle academically. School officials, however, insist that the program has nothing to do with civil rights, and everything to do with education. More from The Huffington Post:
According to local outlet WSMV-TV, La Vergne High School in Rutherford County has been requiring some of its students to attend academic intervention classes during lunchtime, in an effort to raise the grades of struggling students. The outlet reported that some parents are not pleased with the school for forcing certain students eat in a separate location.
“I call it a civil rights violation and segregation, no doubt,” local parent Paul Morecraft told WSMV.
However, Rutherford County School District spokesperson James Evans told The Huffington Post over the phone that La Vergne administrators decided to hold academic interventions during lunch so that the program would not cut into class time. He also disputes WSMV-TV’s assertion that the program forces some La Vergne students to eat separately from others in the cafeteria.
According to Evans, every student in the school is given 25 minutes for lunch. After that time, students who need extra help take another 25 minutes to study in a “learning lab.” Students who are in good academic standing have the option of staying in the cafeteria or participating in other enrichment activities for the extra 25 minutes.
“One misconception is that students are losing their lunchtime or being made to eat in some separate location,” Evans told HuffPost. “They’re still eating in the cafeteria for 25 minutes.”
Students who are scoring below an 80 percent in any subject are required to attend academic intervention.
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Image: School double doors, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Chobani yogurts remain on the menus at schools in 4 states that are launching a healthy eating pilot program, even after discovery of possible mold contamination prompted a nationwide recall of some of the Greek yogurt company’s products. More from NBC News:
Some 230 New York school districts have ordered more than 3,300 cases of Chobani products, while Idaho schools have requested more than 3,400 cases, school officials said.
Those states, along with Arizona and Tennessee, are part of a new U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot project to test the use of Greek-style yogurt as a healthy, high-protein addition to the National School Lunch Program.
The yogurt set for schools isn’t affected by the Sept. 5 Chobani recall, state and federal officials said. It won’t arrive for another couple of weeks and it’s being made in the firm’s New York plant, not the Twin Falls, Idaho, site where company officials detected mold after receiving consumer reports of bubbling, bulging cartons of yogurt. At least 223 complaints of illness tied to the recalled yogurt have been reported to the Food and Drug Administration, though they haven’t been confirmed.
“USDA is aware of the situation and will work with the company to ensure products delivered to schools are healthy and safe,” said agency spokeswoman Brooke Hardison.
Image: Elementary school cafeteria, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Though certain lifestyle habits, including watching television and eating school lunches, are linked with childhood obesity, sixth grade girls and boys also face some gender-specific risk factors. Reuters reports:
Involvement in sports, for example, was tied to a lower risk of obesity in boys but not girls and drinking milk was linked to lowered risk among girls but not boys, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.
The study’s authors, led by Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, write in the journal Pediatrics that understanding obesity risk factors for specific genders may help target programs aimed at weight loss or preventing weight gain in children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 17 percent of children and teens are obese.
For the new study, Jackson and her colleagues used data collected between 2004 and 2011 from 1,714 sixth-grade students at 20 middle schools in and around Ann Arbor.
Overall, about 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls were obese, which is defined as children who are in the top-fifth percentile of body mass index – a measurement of weight in relation to height.
Among boys who were not obese, about 56 percent participated in at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity at least five times per week, compared to about 43 percent of boys who were obese.
But there was no difference between the percentage of obese and non-obese girls who reported regular vigorous physical activity.
Playing on at least one sports team was also linked to decreased risk of obesity for boys but not girls.
The lack of an association between obesity and physical activity in girls may be explained by girls not reporting some activities like cheerleading or dance, because children may not consider those activities sports, the researchers write.
They did find, however, that drinking two or more servings of milk per day was tied to about a 20 percent decreased risk of obesity among girls but not boys. One possible explanation is that milk is displacing sugary drinks in the girls’ diets, Jackson’s team writes.
Image: Overweight girl, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 25th, 2012
A spicy flavor of the popular snack food Cheetos called “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos,” is being banned by school districts in three states because, officials say, the snack is too high in calories and fat, and it is too spicy for children to safely eat. From The New York Times:
The chips in question, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, are scarlet-red, exceedingly spicy and enormously popular. Multiple fan pages with thousands of followers have sprung up on Facebook, and a rap video about hot Cheetos – created by children – has nearly 3.5 million views on YouTube.
But some school districts say the chips are too high in calories, salt and fat, and too spicy for most children. Teachers and parents have complained that the artificial coloring has children leaving behind bright red fingerprints in their classrooms and on their clothing. And emergency room doctors say they have seen patients complaining of stomach pain after eating hot Cheetos, and they warn that eating the chips in excess – because of the bright food dye they contain – may cause discolored stool that can lead to unnecessary hospital visits.
In Pasadena, Calif., a principal at an elementary school told the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the story, that the chips would be confiscated from any student who brings them to school. In New Mexico, students at the Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School in Albuquerque were sent home with a letter telling parents not to let their children bring Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to school. The letter said that the snack lacks nutritional value and creates a mess for janitors, and that students eat it instead of a healthy lunch. The letter also noted that the chips are shared among students, spreading germs.
Frito-Lay, the company that makes Cheetos, says it does not market the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos brand specifically to small children, nor does it sell the snacks directly to schools.
Image: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, via fritolay.com
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