New Research Says School Lunches Aren't to Blame for Childhood Obesity, You Are

By Charlotte Hilton Anderson, REDBOOK
school lunch
Paranoid parents everywhere, take note: the cupcakes your kids' classmate brings to school are not going to make your child obese. Neither are the French fries served by the cafeteria, the ice cream from the a la carte line nor the soda from the vending machine. New research out this week looked at the relationship between children's weight and whether or not their schools served junk food and, surprising everyone, found no correlation at all.

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"The researchers compared children's weight in schools where junk food was sold and in schools where it was banned. The scientists also evaluated eighth graders who moved into schools that sold junk food with those who did not, and children who never attended a school that sold snacks with those who did. And they compared children who always attended schools with snacks with those who moved out of such schools. No matter how the researchers looked at the data, they could find no correlation at all between obesity and attending a school where sweets and salty snacks were available."

But how can this be? As a mom myself who has got up in arms more than once about the crap my kids' school puts on their lunch tray - cherry Jell-O is not a fruit! - I had to take a couple of deep breaths after reading this study. And then I realized: duh. Not only do my kids eat more meals at home than they do at school but they also learn their eating habits and acquire their taste for certain foods at home. All of which means that the most important factor in my children's health is, well, me.

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Nobody's saying that junk food in schools is harmless. It's been shown over and over again that children learn better and act better when fed a healthy diet. It turns out that the only person I have to blame for my second-grader using his lunch money to buy "a fudge pop, two rice krispie treats and a chocolate milk" for lunch is me, the person who gave him the lunch money in the first place. But at least I can take comfort in the fact that a treat once a week at school isn't going to make him obese. All the same though, I still wish my kids' school wouldn't give them those kinds of options.

Does your children's school serve junk food? Were you as surprised by these findings as I was?


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