New Program, New Future

After undergoing tough debates and laborious negotiation, the new school lunch program, which attracts thousands of eyes, was announced last week by the First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in an upbeat atmosphere.

School lunch was urgent to be changed. From the war time to present, 60 years ago to now, US government has been endeavoring to help children stay healthy. But the focus of those advocacies has got an about-face: the nutrition epidemic has changed to obesity problem. According to the statistics from National CDC, approximately 17% of children and adolescents between 2 to19 are obese. Moreover, significant racial and ethnical disparities can be seen in obese prevalence. Black and Hispanic children are much more suspected to obesity, even more for those in low income families. The new rules, which are strictly updated evidence-based, nicely address the above problems and make a great breakthrough of school meals for almost 15 years.

From the start, the new school lunch program is successful because it raised attentions from many aspects. Before the announcement, USDA had received 132,000 public comments on the initiate plan. High number showed the high enthusiasm of participation from the public, at the same time the professionals got a chance to read through public ideas and made realistic changes.

While general public were giving out advices in a peaceful and hopeful way, another main participant, National Potato Council, came out tensely to the debate. Considering the over consumption of potatoes is one of the major downside in the school lunch, the U.S.D.A. kept trying to cut down the potatoes in school lunch. Though this request finally wasn’t approved by the Congress, it could be harmful for the potato industry since it sent out a message displaying the wicked look of potato. Though I think potato shouldn’t be blamed as the noxious witch causing children obesity, its sacrifice did contribute to addressing the industry and public concern while let people know how much determination and effort did the government pay to help the children eat well.

The new program will cost $3.2 billion in government budget and plan to provide healthful lunches for 32 million children who participate. Though it already cut down more than half from the previous 6.8 billion budgets, the cost still looks huge and some governors are unsatisfied. Is it worthy? Well, let’s do the simple math again! According to CDC’s most updated data, 27.5% of total population in US is obese; Annual $147 billion had spent on the Medicare due to obesity, while some analysts said the cost will rise to $344 billion per year in 2018. It is well established that childhood obesity is closely related to adult obesity and chronic disease, so spending $3.2 billion to prevent the onset of the future super costly problems is making a good deal.

“When we send our kids to schools, we have a right to expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we’re trying to keep from them when they’re at home,” Mrs. Obama said in the announcement. “We have a right to expect that the food they get at school is the same kind of food that we want to serve at our own kitchen tables.” Yes, the new school lunch program is on the right track; hopefully it can make a great contribution to the obese era.

pics source: 1. http://www.bet.com/news/national/2012/01/25/michelle-obama-announces-new-school-lunch-nutrition-guidelines.html 2. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html

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