Schools Can’t Afford Healthy Lunches

May 19, 2008 08:54 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Spiking prices of milk, grain, produce and meat are forcing schools to consider rolling back healthy-food initiatives in favor of less expensive, high-calorie alternatives.

30-Second Summary

Studies have shown that childhood obesity can be curbed when kids eat a healthy school lunch.

But with food prices rising, schools must often choose between economics and nutrition. Low-fat foods generally cost more than less healthy alternatives.

One school official said, “We do not want to serve our students highly refined sugar and flour products, which are more affordable, but we are continually being pushed down this path.”

Schools are similar to restaurants in that they use the profits from meals and snacks they sell to buy additional food and pay workers. If they increase lunch prices to offset costs, though, middle class families who do not qualify for price breaks may feel the strain.

To help fight obesity in other ways, schools are becoming more creative with nutritional education.

In Philadelphia, educators spent two years integrating nutritional education into their lesson plans and healthy foods into their lunchrooms and snack machines. They found that kids in grades 4–6 were half as likely to become overweight because of their efforts.

Many schools are still trying to keep up with food prices while still offering healthy food, but there are concerns. “We’re having to be creative, but we’re worried it’s not sustainable,” said Eric Goldstein, chief executive for school support services in New York.

Headline Link: Schools get a lesson in lunch-line economics

Background: Nutritional education

Historical Context: Ketchup as a vegetable

Related: Childhood obesity, global food prices

Reference: Children’s health, National School Lunch Program


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