Sunday, June 27, 2010

Potpourri: School Food News Roundup

Food manufacturers make billions off kids and they are always finding new a more ingenious ways of marketing their products to children who aren't old enough to know they're being sold a bill of goods.

Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recently found that the use of popular cartoon characters encouraged kids to eat junk food.

For their study, rearchers at the Rudd Center gave 40 children, ages 4 to 6, three identical pairs of snacks: graham crackers, gummy fruit and carrots.

One package of each food had a cartoon character —Scooby-Doo, Dora the Explorer or Shrek — on the front; the other didn't. Children were asked if the foods tasted the same or if one tasted better.

The findings, reported in the journal Pediatrics:

•More than two-thirds said they would choose the snack with the character on the package.

•About half of the kids said the foods tasted better from packages with the cartoon characters.

"This shows how powerful and influential these characters can be," says Yale researcher Christina Roberto, the study's lead author.


We are still learning all the health consequences of children eating junk food. Much of it is laced with high-fructose corn syrup. New research indicates that fructose may trigger certain fat cells to grow faster, helping to explain the epidemic of childhood obesity.

Meanwhile, another study links obesity and high consumption of sugary beverages with a sharp rise of tooth decay in young children.

Researchers looked at 65 children, aged 2 to 5, who received treatment for cavities in baby teeth and found that nearly 28 percent of those kids had a body-mass index that indicated they were overweight or obese.

That rate is 5 percent higher than the estimated national average for childhood overweight or obesity, the study authors explained in a news release from the University at Buffalo, in New York.

The researchers also found that about 71 percent of the children had a daily caloric intake higher than the normal 1,200 calories for their age group.


Yet another study confirms that the quickest way to make school food healthier is to get the junk out.

Schools that eliminated junk food from a la carte lines during school lunch hours have seen an 18 percent reduction in overweight or obese students, according to a new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The researchers, Associate Professor of Marketing Patricia Kennedy and Associate Professor of Finance Mary McGarvey, examined nutrition policies as well as survey information from students, parents and administrators at eight Midwestern schools, and then considered a range of other factors to gauge the effect of schools’ food policies on students’ weight.

The study suggests expanding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s current ban on selling so-called Foods of Limited Nutritional Value during school meal times to include all junk food a la carte selections.

The current USDA ban doesn’t cover items such as candy bars, soda, potato chips, cookies and other high-fat snack foods. You can the actual list here.


Florida's state board of education recently considered a measure to remove all flavored milk from schools in the sunshine state, but then tables the measure when the usual controversy arose. This article in the St. Petersburg Times frames the issues.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Ohio this month wrangled over measures to remove sodas and unhealthy foods from schools in that state, as well as mandate more physical exercise. It appears high schoolers may soon have a diet soda option. School officials objected to mandating 30 minutes of exercise per day. That's been turned into a pilot project.


Snack foods may be on their way out in San Francisco. Schools there plan to remove so called "deli" lines after finding that too many low-income kids were purchasing snacks rather than participate in the federally subsidized lunch program.

Even kids who qualify for free meals sometimes feel stigmatized standing in the regular lunch line. By eliminating competing alternatives, officials hope to remove the stigma and steer kids toward healthier choices.


Finally, students at a school in Denver took matters into their own hands. Students in the Speech and Debate class at Randolph School decided lunch lines were too long, discouraging some kids from eating in the cafeteria, and the food needed some improvement. The brought in a new food vendor for a tasting, and gave a presentation to the school's administration arguing for the new vendor and a longer lunch hour.

The administration agreed, and the changes will go into effect in the fall.

1 comment:

  1. > By eliminating competing alternatives,
    > officials hope to remove the stigma
    > and steer kids toward healthier choices.

    you're speaking here on the assumption that what's in the regular line *IS* a healthier alternative. if what you ate this year is any indication, frankly, it's not.