A project funded by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) is photographing student lunch trays before and after kids eat to determine how many calories each child consumes. Will this be a big help that leads to healthier children or is it a step toward more big brother involvement in the lives of all Americans?
The $2 million study is being conducted by the government agency in five schools in the poorest section of San Antonio, Texas. According to the research firm in charge of the project kids faces won’t be photographed. Parents will be provided eating information through a bar code system in hopes that at-home eating habits can be changed.
Unfortunately, the study does not expand its scope of interest to include the other known factor relating to the obesity issue: exercise. If a camera was aimed at a child’s physical activities during and after school, maybe officials would come to the same conclusion the rest of us reached many years ago. There is a simple answer to most weight issues, which is to burn more calories through exercise than we take in by eating.
The schools where the four-year study is being conducted has an obesity rate of 33%. This is about twice the national rate of 16% for both elementary and secondary schools. Obesity has increased by 50% since 1994 and three to four times the levels of 1970 and before. Few will argue that there is a problem, but are the choices made by the children or the foods available at the schools the answer?
Back when the obesity level was at 4 and 5%, the fare at school was not particularly good or healthy. That’s why many kids brown-bagged lunch. It was also cheaper for mom to make lunch than to have the kids go through the cafeteria line. Given a choice, young people will usually make the wrong selection when it comes to what they put into their bodies, because kids will be kids.
The food police, individual moms and the government, have made strides by getting vending machines operators to stop offering high-calorie, high-fat foods and drinks in favor of healthier products. When New Seniors and most Baby Boomers were in school, snacks and soft drinks could not be purchased from vending machines, because there were no vending machines in the schools.
Those of us who were considered middle-class kids back then ate junk food and candy when we had the money. However, we did not have much extra money, so we did not load up on junk. Why do today’s impoverished children have money to eat bad food away from home?
Will knowing that the kids don’t eat well at school cause their parents to change the way they eat at home? Is this government research program just one more in a long line of poor spending choices? Or, worst of all, does big brother plan to dictate what we eat be starting with the children and working its way up until we all eat the way it wants?