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For many years, pediatricians, nutritionists, demographers and experts in all sorts of fields have been concerned about the rising rates of childhood obesity. Recently, professionals and celebrities alike (including the fantastic Michelle Obama) have emphasized health risks for children who are very overweight, transforming the issue into a full-blown national disaster. The consequences of childhood obesity have been drilled into our heads: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, digestive problems, arthritis at a later age and lifelong emotional impacts due to teasing or low self-esteem.
The finger of blame for this phenomenon has been pointed in many directions, indicating numerous culprits for the upward weight trend in young people. One institution that has taken a lot of flack in the crusade to find someone pr something responsible for this "epidemic" is the school system. Parents, political advocates, invested corporate sponsors (of course, don't forget the celebrities!) and many others have expressed great concern over the nutritional content of school lunches, asserting that they are the cause of expanding waistlines in students.
While I certainly agree that schools should do their best to promote movement and exercise, center lessons around healthy choices and offer nutritious food options to the students they serve, I am baffled by the indictment of schools as the instigator for all things related to childhood obesity. Is this accusation fair? While teachers spend a large portion of time with their students and have incredibly significant impact on their lifestyle and ways of thinking, how much control do they truly have over a child’s health or well-being? Though more and more students are receiving a majority of their daily calories from the National School Lunch Program--a service that now also provides breakfast and after-school snacks--can it truly counteract any unhealthy food choices a parent makes at home? What do you think?
Contrary to popular belief, school lunches are no longer the shapeless, tasteless, nutrition-less globs of goop that were once served by menacing old women with hairnets.