What school lunch programs are doing wrong and what we can do to fix them

Valentina Maio, Contributor

It is commonly known that high schools try to offer, and according to critics, often fail, to supply quality, low cost meals to students on a regular basis. This is an issue that is debated often by the public. 

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious issues that affects our country, but it is also one of the most ignored problems in the US. The main causes of obesity are very well known; over-eating, poor physical activity levels, and overall unhealthy dietary habits. However, these aren’t the only factors that cause obesity. Kids spend most of their time at school studying, reading, learning, and listening; these activities don’t exactly make up for calorie burning opportunities like a good hike or other kinds of physical activity. Instead, what they get in return is an unhealthy, fast food-like school lunch that not only makes up for the small amounts of energy lost, but accumulates more calories than necessary, building up the excessive fat in their bodies.

The availability of healthy food doesn’t depend solely on the poor knowledge associated with it nor is it solely genetic, it also relies on a families budget.  In fact, in a study by the Healthcare Administration Degree Program states, US counties with poverty rates higher than 35% have obesity rates 145% greater than those in wealthy countries. Sadly, the school funding system is not as simple as one would wish for, as the Urban Institute states, it is a blend of federal money, state money and local money. Even though one would like to blame school funding on the government for not bringing up the budget for schools with students with low income families, it needs to be clear that the largest part of these funds already does come from federal money and state money, and the reason these schools don’t provide healthy alternatives to the occasional pizza or burrito, may be that their interests don’t entirely consist of the students’ eating habits as much as how the school is seen from the average outsider.

For example, a study conducted by Ohio University states that for high schools to obtain a better image, more money than necessary is spent on the sports department. This industry in fact, is said to have an income of $5 billion a year. As entertaining as it may be, sports are only partially responsible for your health, and if after the hardest workout one reaches for a slice of pizza, all of the efforts put into that workout will be proven ineffective. This means that some of the excessive money that is put into the sports department could be used instead to fund for better school lunch programs, but this is not the only way to help the cause.

In fact,  As Food Revolution Network states in one of their articles, there are many ways the US could improve school lunches in schools, and by observing and embracing other countries’ solutions as well as coming up with a solution of our own, American communities could learn even more about dieting, and adopt some of the many varieties of foods that are healthy substitutions to their go to trash meals, and if people can make a healthy change today, they could have a prosperous tomorrow.