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School Food Laws May be Reducing Children’s Weight, Study Finds

When it comes to childhood obesity in the U.S., we obviously have a problem. An estimated one in three American kids and teens is obese, according to the American Heart Association. And as a result, weight-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes are on the rise in children, which leaves health experts scrambling for ways to reverse this alarming trend.

But thanks to various food laws put in place in some schools, we may be making some healthy progress.

According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, strict laws that curb the sales of junk food and sugary drinks in schools may be reducing children’s BMIs and slowing overall weight gain.

To conduct the study, researchers analyzed 6,300 students in 40 states, first measuring their heights and weights when they were fifth graders in 2004, and again when they were eighth graders in 2007. Over the same lapse of time, researchers also examined the databases of several state laws concerning nutrition in these schools.

Among the schools examined, there were a range of laws in place to govern the food and drinks being sold either in vending machines or school stores outside of designated meal times. These laws included restrictions on the sugar and fat contents of food and beverages, and the severity of these laws ranged from district to district.
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Why Schools are Banning Bake Sales and Birthday Cakes

Bake sales used to be the highlight of any school function, with mountains of cupcakes and muffins, and bundt cakes galore, tempting the taste buds of kindergartners and teachers alike. But that may be changing soon, as schools are beginning to make bake sale restrictions in light of America’s ever-expanding waistline.

The public school system in Maryland’s Montgomery County, for instance, is no longer allowing its districts to hold bake sales, even if the fundraisers are for a good cause. This is because selling sweets has been outlawed during the school day, and the new ban is taken rather seriously, according to Marla Caplon of Montgomery County’s food and nutrition services, who says officials ‘make the rounds’ daily to ensure no one’s breaking the rules.

“If a bake sale is going on, it’s reported to administration and it’s taken care of,” she says. “You can’t sell Girl Scout cookies, candy, cakes, any of that stuff.”
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School Breakfast Programs: Some Children Eating Twice is Better Than Some Not Eating at All

I have no children, but do have an adorable niece and nephew and love to hear stories about the sneaky little things they do to my sister to drive her insane. I remember not too long ago her telling me her son forgot his lunch, so she ran to school to drop it off a few minutes after the bell rang. Expecting to run it to his classroom, a teacher told her he was in the cafeteria. She walked in, found him at a table eating a doughnut off of a Styrofoam tray, and tapped him on the shoulder. She said when he turned around and saw her, he almost fell of his chair.

Turns out, for the past few months, he has been eating breakfast at home, then going to school and taking advantage of the free breakfast at school. Why? Because instead of a healthy well-balanced meal, they served maple bars and chocolate milk. Who could blame him?

This is just a cute story, one that we will tease him about for years to come, I’m sure, but my memory was jogged about it from a story I found in the New York Times.

According to the Times, there are many benefits to the free breakfast program. “The number of students in Newark who eat breakfast in school has tripled. Absenteeism has fallen in Los Angeles, and officials in Chicago say children from low-income families are eating healthier meals, more often.”

New York City, however, is wary to instill this program because they feel “double-dippers” will take advantage, and add to the obesity epidemic.


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Down Economy Forces Some Schools to Feed Kids Supper

When I was younger and living in New Mexico with my parents and older sister, we were by no means a rich family.

Of the many things I don’t remember about my time there as a 3-8 year old, one thing I do have a vivid memory of is walking down to a nearby park with my mom and sister to get a free lunch that was provided to families in the neighborhood who were going through particularly difficult financial times.

We weren’t starving, but the lunch certainly helped. And while some view programs like this is a handout, that isn’t always the case as they can be a great benefit to communities. Although not everyone agrees, this seems to be the case with a recent trend in schools helping out struggling families by feeding children an extra meal before sending them home for the day.

In light of the economic downturn, there have been a number of schools that have begun serving students supper in addition to the breakfast and lunch they’re already being provided during a typical day at school.
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California Students Served Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner at School

By Kelsey Murray

There’s been a lot of news recently about schools offering free breakfasts and lunches to students who are from low-income families. Now, 200 schools in California are also starting to offer free dinners to students who participate in after-school programs.

In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This act made it possible for after-school programs to receive funding to provide dinner for free or at a reduced price. Under the act, schools must have an educational component to their after-school programs, such as tutoring services of health and nutrition classes. Also, in order to receive funding, at least 50 percent of the students who participate in these programs must qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Gary Petill is the director of Food Nutrition Services at San Diego Unified. Currently, his school district is serving dinner to around 1,650 students, but he expects that number to rise to more than 2,000 by next month and more than 13,000 students by next year.
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