Federal School Lunches Linked to Obesity
Science Daily reports that new research funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that kids who participate only in the federal government's National School Lunch Program are more likely to become overweight, but kids who participate in the federally-funded breakfast program and the lunch program are slimmer than most.
Researchers from Southern Methodist University, Georgia State University and Kuwait University looked at data on more than 13,500 elementary school students, and found that kids who eat both breakfast and lunch under the federal program weigh less than kids who only eat lunch, as well as kids who do not participate in the program at all.
The students were also interviewed in kindergarten, first and third grades, and again in later grades.
The USDA reimburses schools for a portion of their school lunch costs, and also donates surplus food items. The USDA also requires that the meals meet certain nutritional guidelines, but it does allow the schools to choose the foods it serves.
"The fact that federally-funded school lunches contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic is disconcerting, although not altogether surprising," study co-author and economist Daniel L. Millimet tells Science Daily.
Schools are allowed to serve additional items on an a la carte basis under the program, and those foods may fall outside the federal guidelines for nutrition.
"First, it is very difficult to plan healthy but inviting school lunches at a low price," Millimet tells Science Daily. "Second, given the tight budgets faced by many school districts, funding from the sales of a la carte lunch items receives high priority."
The study was published in the The Journal of Human Resources.
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