by guest blogger Ann Cooper
Not a day goes by without the media addressing America’s growing obesity crisis, and lately the discussion has settled on our children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that if American children don’t get their weight in check, their anticipated health problems will significantly shorten their lives, and make them the first generation in our nation’s history to die at younger ages than their parents. In fact, the CDC has said that of the children born in the year 2000, one out of every three Caucasians and one out of every two African Americans and Hispanics will contract diabetes in their lifetimes, many before they graduate high school.
We are still in the peak of summer, but kids and teachers across the United States are already gearing up for school to start. With students back at their desks, lunchrooms are also about to be bustling once again with the rekindling of friendships, brown paper sacks, and lunch trays full of school lunch. But what of the state of school food, is it getting better? Are we feeding kids more healthfully? Why should healthy school food matter to every one of us?
A typical school lunch often consists of any combination of pizza, hamburgers, nachos, french fries, tater tots, all slathered in ketchup and ranch dressing, all served with a side of sugary flavored milk. There is no doubt in my mind that these mediocre school lunches are contributing to the obesity crisis—and that if we do not take action NOW to make school lunches healthy, we will all pay the price in healthcare costs, and more importantly, the lives of those who are important to us.
The solution to our health crisis must include dramatic improvements to our National School Lunch Program (NSLP) because so many children depend on it. Each day NSLP feeds 29 million children, and those numbers are rising as our economy sinks. School lunches are contributing to this rise in obesity, and diet-related illnesses loom over our children due to the gradual effects bad food has on their health. Someday, we will all take the fall for not making drastic changes now. Can you imagine all the kids who will have to grow up with illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease if we don’t make these changes?
There are things we can and need to do now. How can we all be a part of a solution? First we must understand the challenges in detail: Check out my next blog post for details on the five major challenges around making school food healthier and how we can all help schools to overcome them.
Rodale’s Nontoxic Back-to-School Shopping Guide – Rodale.com