School Kids Choose Unhealthy Lunches, Study Finds

The above headline comes from a July 01, 2003 Reuters Health release. The article begins by saying that according to new research, “Schools that offer students pizza and fries as alternatives to healthier lunch fare are not only encouraging children to eat high-fat foods during lunch hour, but after school and at home as well.”

Researcher and registered nurse, Martha Kubik of the University of Minnesota, and her team collected data on 16 middle schools. They noted the difference between schools that offered an a la carte program and availability of vending machines, which offer children more “popular” foods alongside the traditional, and carefully balanced, school lunch. The results were published in the American Journal of Public Health. In the journal Kubik stated, “This is probably the first paper that looks at the a la carte programs in schools and their influence on student dietary behavior.”

“We weren’t just looking necessarily at food they ate at school. We looked at food they ate outside of school as well,” Kubik said. She continues, “That suggests how important the school environment is. If they were at these schools that offered a la carte, they were not making up for choices made at school by eating healthier foods out of school. It shows how powerful the school influence is, not only are they exposed to their own choices, they are exposed to the choices of their peers.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 9 out of 10 U.S. schools offer the a la carte programs, which do not have to meet the U.S. government’s nutritional recommendations. These recommendations call for eating at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables and getting no more than 30 percent of calories from fat.