Stacey Frakes, who taught third, fourth and fifth grades at Madison (Fla.) County Central School and now works as an instructional coach for an elementary school, says sometimes kids would come to her class and put their heads on their desk and almost cry.
When she asked them what was wrong, they'd tell her they hadn't had any breakfast. She kept peanut butter crackers on hand to give them, and one time gave a student her own lunch.
She says hungry students "couldn't focus at all. All they could think about was wanting food. They would ask, 'What time is lunch? Is it lunchtime yet?' "
New York became the first U.S. city to try to attack the U.S. obesity epidemic by requiring fast-food restaurants to list the calories of their foods on menus in 2008. The hope was that better-informed consumers would make better food choices.
Researchers at New York University wanted to see how effective the city's law is at getting parents and young people to think twice about ordering high-calorie foods.
The team gathered restaurant receipts and surveyed 427 parents and teenagers at fast-food restaurants both before and after mandatory labeling began in July 2008.
The researchers found that after labeling began, 57 percent of New York teens surveyed said they noticed the calorie information and 9 percent said this information influenced their food choices.
"What we didn't see is any change in the number of calories before and after labeling started," Dr. Brian Elbel of NYU, who led the study, told Reuters. "We also didn't see any changes in the number of calories for choices parents were making for their kids."
The foods teens bought amounted to about 725 calories per meal and the food parents bought for their children were about 600 calories per meal.
The study found that most teens underestimated the amount of calories they had purchased, some by up to 466 calories.
But if kids just exercise more, they can work off those extra calories, right?
Better check your understanding of why people become obese, because here's more research indicating that exercise does not correlate with lower measures of body fat or body mass index (BMI).
The results from this small study of eight-year-olds were presented at the Obesity Society's 2010 Annual Scientific Assembly. While the findings challenge the idea that kids who exercise more are less fat, researchers did find that exercise positively influences the distribution of fat on the body in ways that can lead to better health.
Finally, reporter Monica Eng at the Chicago Tribune recently reported that fewer kids in Chicago schools are choosing the subsidized hot meal since healthier foods were introduced. Eng writes that she interviewed dozens of students who said the new food provided by Chartwells was "nasty."
"Complaints arise with the reformulated items, including new pizza products with grainier cardboardy crusts," Eng writes. "The same goes for overly tangy and tomatoey red beans with whole wheat pasta; chalky whole wheat macaroni salad; a mixture of beans, cheese and tomato called 'enchiladas'; nearly flavorless rice and beans; brown-tinged, formaldehyde scented iceberg salad in a cup; a stiff flour tortilla wrapped around fish sticks named a 'fish taco'; canned pears that taste like wet toilet paper and, worst of all, waterlogged and unsalted boiled vegetables."
The one thing kids seemed to like was a "spicy chicken patty" with 60 ingredients that was reintroduced to try and quell student dissatisfaction.
Eng says she was skeptical of the kids' complaints at first. "But as a former food reviewer I decided to taste the meals myself, and I discovered the kids are absolutely right."
"If I were served the [Chicago Public Schools] versions of these foods in a restaurant, I would send them back immediately," Eng concludes. "At the very least, I would sprinkle the vegetables with a few crystals of salt, but students are not allowed salt and cooks are never allowed to use it on meals made in CPS kitchens. If these were my first tastes of broccoli, zucchini and carrots, I might never want to try them again."