No time to retreat in child obesity fight

Kids may not like it, but schools are on the right track with healthier lunch menus that serve up more fruits and vegetables and less junk food.

Under nutritional standards that took effect this year, cafeterias must serve twice as many fruits and vegetables while limiting proteins and carbohydrates. High school students are restricted to a maximum of 850 calories.

First lady Michelle Obama ran a 40-yard sprint to promote her Let’s Move! anti-obesity campaign. (Gerald Herbert / AP)

The healthier menu was pushed by first lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity. The long overdue overhaul of school lunches was the first in 15 years.

For an average high school student, an appropriate meal under the standards would be two baked fish nuggets, a cup of vegetables, half a cup of mashed potatoes, a whole-grain roll, and 8 ounces of fat-free milk, with no limit on second helpings of fruits and vegetables.

Should low-calorie school lunches be beefed up in response to student complaints?

  • 275 (42.4%)
  • 207 (31.9%)
  • 61 (9.4%)
  • 105 (16.2%)
  • 648

Not surprisingly, students are grumbling about the healthier fare. Some complain that their stomachs growl at the end of the day from hunger pangs. To make their point, students and teachers in Kansas made a video called “We are Hungry,” which shows students collapsing and stuffing their lockers with junk food.

Of course, given an option, most students would probably prefer junk food. That’s why the choice should be made by adults who recognize the consequences of unhealthy lifestyles.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. In Philadelphia, one in five schoolchildren is obese, and one in 12 is “severely” obese. A new report released by retired military leaders found that one out of every four adolescents is too big to join the military, making obesity a national security issue.

Instead of scrapping the healthier menus, as two Midwestern congressmen have proposed, schools must find ways to make healthy meals more appetizing. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proposes schools create snack programs to help students make it between meals. And It wouldn’t hurt for parents to pack healthy school snacks for their kids.