The New York Times “Vital Signs” column reports today on a study of more than a thousand Michigan sixth graders which found that those students who regularly ate school lunch were 29% more likely to be obese than those who brought lunch from home.
This finding bolsters my own conclusions on this subject.
You might recall that back in September I wrote a post called “Can a Child Become Overweight Just from Eating School Lunch? — A TLT Experiment” I invented an eight-year old boy, Jimmy, and gave him an average height and weight using CDC growth charts. I then calculated Jimmy’s caloric needs for the day and generously alloted 1/3 of his calories toward lunch — generous because this assumed that, unlike almost all children, he wasn’t eating snacks between meals. I then sent Jimmy through my Houston district’s elementary school lunch line over the course of a single week, letting him pick and choose from the week’s menu as he wished (lots of chocolate milk, tacos, burgers and the rest).
My conclusion? On a daily basis, Jimmy exceeded his artificially high calorie maximum at lunch by an average of 231.8 calories. And since a pound of weight gain represents 3,500 unneeded calories, an extra 350 calories of food a day would cause a child to gain an extra pound every ten days (350×10).
The good news, as noted in the Times article, is that under the new USDA school food regulations, calorie minimums for school meals are going down, and a broader variety of fruits and vegetables (not just corn and potatoes) will be offered.
It remains to be seen how little Jimmy will fare on the new school food. I’ll revisit this experiment using my school district’s revised menus when they’re in effect.
[Hat tip: June Edelstein]