With obesity topping the list of issues facing Americans today, one has to wonder when the slippery slope of unhealthy choices begins.
In elementary school, we were taught that eating healthy foods was important. Teachers stressed the importance of eating vegetables and fruit and playing outside. The simple concept of the importance of choosing water and juice over soda as well as eating well-balanced meals evolved in middle school.
By high school, we were allowed to make more of our own food choices and were reminded that once we reached adulthood, those choices would need to continue.
During our time in school, the government began to take the initiative in the movement for healthy habits among both children and adults.
Schools began following suit and the removal of junk food began. Sodas were removed from vending machines and replaced with low-calorie drinks. Ice cream and cookies were replaced with granola bars and fruit snacks. Last week, first lady Michelle Obama, with the help of Agriculture Secretary
Tom Vilsack and celebrity chef Rachel Ray, launched a new campaign for healthy options for students in school. They hope to take popular school lunches and make them healthier.
Pizza, for example, will be made with more whole grains, less sodium and more vegetables.
Many argue that the government has no right to demand these requests, because they think these changes are estimated to raise the cost of meals at schools around the country.
These regulations can be covered by legislation passed by President Obama in 2010.
This legislation regulates the meals that can be provided to students for free or at a low-cost through government funding.
These changes are based on studies that support the importance of healthy school lunches.
These studies claim that, regardless of what children eat at home and elsewhere, school lunches have a large effect on children’s weight gain.
A more recent study, however, disproves this belief.
A study conducted by Jennifer Hook, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, found that with a group of 20,000 middle school students, school lunches did not have a meaningful effect on weight. On the contrary, she found that eating habits at home and elsewhere are the cornerstones for children’s health.
“Children’s environments at home and in their communities may provide so many opportunities to eat unhealthy foods that competitive food sales in schools have little influence on children’s weight,” Hook said.
These findings support an ideal that should be a large part of children’s health choices: Parental responsibility. Rather than focusing on school food options, most of which are small portions with servings of each important food group, the focus should be put on parents’ responsibility to provide healthy options for children.
That focus is commonly overlooked.
The responsibility is often handed over to school programs, as well as teachers who are expected to encourage healthy food choices.The true problem remains with those families that do not encourage healthy choices at home.
Childhood obesity stems from junk food availability as well as unhealthy breakfasts and dinners.
For this country to step up and begin to fix the obesity issue among children, the focus will need to drift from school meal options to those at home.
The problem is not what is available at school, but instead, the lack of families taking an interest in their children’s health.