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Stanford Medicine

Nutrition, Obesity, Parenting, Pediatrics

Study shows federal school lunch program doesn’t make the grade

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As students head back to school, new concerns are being raised about the nutrition standards for the federal government’s National School Lunch Program.

In a study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, researchers analyzed data on more than 13,500 elementary school students and found students are more likely to become overweight if they eat school lunches that are sponsored by the federal government. The findings also showed – seemingly paradoxically – that children who ate both breakfast and lunch sponsored by the federal government were less overweight than those who don’t participate in either program and than others who ate only the lunch.

Researchers speculate that constrained budgets, cafeteria items sold a la carte such as chips and desserts and schools failure to comply with federal nutrition guidelines are to blame for the National School Lunch Program contributing to childhood obesity. Study author Daniel L. Millimet, PhD, said in a release:

There’s evidence that school lunches are less in compliance with [federal nutrition] guidelines than breakfasts. The other possible issue is that these days schools try to make money from a la carte items at lunch. And it’s possible that even if the school lunch is healthy, kids buying lunch are more likely to tack on extra items that are not healthy.

Previously: School nutrition standards come into the 21st century
Photo by Anthony Easton

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