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School Lunches Lack Nutrition; Environment Plays a Role, Studies Find

School Lunches Lack Nutrition, Environment Playing a Role, Studies Find

Two studies recently found that neither a packed lunch from home nor lunch in the cafeteria is actually healthy. 

The studies, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and another from the Baylor College of Medicine found this fact, according to an article on TechTimes.com.

“The Hopkins study involved six- to eight-year-olds while the Baylor study had subjects from kindergarten to eighth grade, but both led to the same results, unfortunately highlighting problems with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act,” the article said.

The article looks at the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which “was passed in 2010 by Congress to include new provisions that would raise the standards for government-subsidized lunches.”

“Across the country, this meant remarkable changes in school lunches to incorporate increased servings of whole grains, fruits and vegetables as well as higher calorie counts,” said TechTimes.com.

The Hopkins study, however, revealed that “out of 274 students eating school lunches, only 59 percent opted for vegetable while 58 percent went with fruit. And out of those who got vegetables, only 24 percent actually ate what they got.”

The study also found, that “children were likelier to eat healthier school lunches when the cafeteria is quiet, food is cut up in smaller pieces, lunch periods are longer and teachers eat lunch in the same cafeteria.”

"We saw a big jump in consumption if these factors were controlled, and they aren't expensive things to control for," said Susan Gross, a dietician and nutritionist who led the Hopkins study.

The Baylor study found that “out of 337 student lunches, those brought from home were likely to contain nearly double the sodium level allowed on school lunches,” said the article.

“Home-packed lunches also had 88 percent less vegetables and 40 percent fewer fruit and mostly included desserts and sweet beverages that are not offered through school lunches,” the article said. “Despite the low nutrition value, children who brought home-packed meals were likelier to eat them entirely.”

"Lunches brought from home compared unfavorably with current NSLP guidelines. Strategies are needed to improve the nutritional quality of lunches brought from home," said researchers from Baylor.

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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