School Lunches: A Strategy to Combat Childhood Obesity
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ABSTRACT: Childhood overweight and obesity have increased three-fold since 1980, and there is minimal evidence of any leveling off. Research has found that many school food programs are not sufficiently providing adequate nutrients and providing far too many calories and fat. Competitive foods are widely available in many schools which may possibly contribute to increased weight and body mass index (BMI) in students. This has put school food programs under scrutiny as a contributor to the childhood obesity crisis being faced. Schools can promote healthier eating by improving school meals, but most are forced to sell competitive foods to support their programs. Several programs have proven that children tend to gravitate towards healthier option when given the opportunity. Leadership in the area of school nutrition may improve the quality of nutritional meals available in schools. This paper proposes the possible link between school food service programs and the upward trend in childhood overweight and obesity. Florida Public Health Review, 2010; 7, 9-12. Introduction It is estimated that children consume up to 50% of their daily food intake while at school (Story, Kaphingst, & French, 2006). The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) serves 30 million students per day, accounting for 60% of the total student population in the United States (Shanzenbach, 2009). With a population this large and the potential for a positive impact affecting many students, increased attention has been focused on improving the quality of school nutrition programs as the rise in childhood overweight and obesity has escalated. Due to the financial pressures school food service programs face, many are forced to serve competitive foods that are higher in fat, including saturated fat, and calories, but extremely profitable (Shanzenbach, 2009). Several programs have been implemented to ensure healthier foods are available to students due to increased awareness and recognition that overweight and obesity has lasting, detrimental health consequences. This paper will apply leadership principles from the perspectives of Kouzes and Posner (2007) and Kotter (1996) calling for leadership to ensure the health of children today by increasing the funding to school nutrition programs.
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