Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Whether the information comes to you from statistical studies or just from taking a look around, it is obvious that the United States is facing an obesity epidemic.
The facts are overwhelming; we have the second-highest obesity rate in the world and spend more than $190 billion a year treating obesity-related illnesses. If you think the battle over healthcare is a major issue today, imagine what is going to happen as obesity and other diet-related illnesses increase the need for high-cost medical services.
As with so many of the issues we face as a society, the answer is fairly straightforward, but is difficult to implement because it requires us to think and plan long term. It will require us to change patterns that have developed over decades.
For more than a generation, our diet has deteriorated as we’ve replaced fresh food with prepared ready-to-serve meals and fast food.We have saved time and created convenience, but our diets are now filled with processed and sugar-laden foods. The associated health issues we see today are taking a toll on our society.
We have saved time and created convenience, but our diets are now filled with processed and sugar-laden foods. The associated health issues we see today are taking a toll on our society.
This situation will not turn around overnight, but the conversation around the importance of improving our diets has at least begun and some progress has been made in our children’s school cafeterias.
The nutrition standards of school meals were updated in 2012 under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kid Act. These improved standards require more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains and less sodium, fat and sugar in school lunches.
A survey done by the Pew Charitable Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 72 percent of parents support strong nutritional standards for school meals. Another study published in Childhood Obesity, found that 70 percent of middle school students and 63 percent of high school students like the more nutritious school meals.
Kids are being exposed to healthier food in their school lunches and they are gaining first-hand knowledge that healthy food can taste good.
Most of the children we serve at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano receive free or reduced costs lunches; making the meals they receive at school an important part of their diet.
By providing students healthier food on a regular basis, they are learning that fruits, vegetables and whole grains are an important part of a wholesome diet.
Furthermore, they are developing patterns that will fight obesity and other health-related illnesses.
We are doing the right thing when we feed our children well; we are setting them up to be healthy and successful.
A healthy school lunch is one of the best investments we make in the future of our society.
The author is executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, based in Concord. Email: [email protected]