Lunch Report Cards: A Good Idea?
Recently, researchers at Cornell University set out to find what would happen if kids were "graded" on how balanced their lunch is. Each week, select parents of kids in kindergarten through grade twelve were sent weekly report cards of what their kids ate each day for lunch. According to The Atlantic, the reports seemed to have some impact on kids' meal choices--such as buying less cookies. Additionally, some parents said it was a good way to start a conversation on healthy eating.
On the flip side, lunch report cards could be just another headache for students and educators. With the length of school lunch shrinking across the country, kids are expected to shovel in a healthy meal and enjoy some free time with their friends in 20 minutes or less. Giving a report of what's going down (kids' throats) during this time seems like an unnecessary source of stress during students' time to relax. This scrutiny on every item kids put on their trays or in their mouths might also spark eating disorders, which are already on the rise.
As a kid who used to spit out my Flintstone Vitamins while my parents weren't looking, I know that even little ones will figure out how to beat the system. It might not take long for students to put healthy food on their tray, only to throw it away after it's been accounted for. And the educators who monitor the lunch room would likely be in charge of recording the kiddos' meals in addition to making sure the lunchtime shenanigans stay under wraps, which is already a tough job.
Ultimately, the kids who are truly at risk for childhood obesity might not benefit from a program like this. Since only one meal per day is eaten at school, a child who earns an "A" during lunch might be failing breakfast and dinner at home. At the same time, if parents aren't watching what their kids eat at home, can't afford healthy options, or know about the benefits of healthy eating, is this putting too much blame on the children?
Though knowledge of nutrition is an important weapon in the fight against obesity, maybe the lunch room is not a place to grade it.
Image of Red apple on a book with pencil and vintage report card in background via Shutterstock.