School Lunches Make Kids Fat, But Adding a School Breakfast Counters Effect

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, In The News, Nutrition: Big Kids, Education: Big Kids, Nutrition: Tweens, Education: Tweens

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One of the most potent weapons in the battle against childhood obesity is offering kids a school breakfast -- but school lunch alone can make kids fat, an upcoming study shows.

Children who received federal lunches in first grade were more likely to be obese by the time they were in third grade than their classmates who brought lunch from home, Georgia State University researchers found. That trend was reversed, though, for children who also were provided with a school breakfast.

"If they participate in both, they're lighter; if lunch only, they're heavier," Rusty Tchernis, associate professor with Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and the study's co-author, tells ParentDish.

Tchernis and his colleagues studied data from more than 13,500 children who are part of the National School Lunch Program.

"Overweight children are more likely to become obese adults," Tchernis says in a statement. "So the only way to reduce obesity is to prevent it from happening in children."

Tchernis says providing a free breakfast to everyone would remove its stigma and be an effective way to help prevent children from becoming overweight in the first place. And parents should be sure kids are eating a morning meal every day.

"Don't let them skip breakfast and if there is a school breakfast program in your school, enroll your kids in it," Tchernis tells ParentDish.

The study "School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity," will be published in the summer edition of The Journal of Human Resources.

More than 30 million children receive low-cost or free lunches through the NSLP, according to the program's website.

Related: Minority Kids at Risk for Obesity Even Before Birth, Study Says

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