School cafeterias are obliged to offer healthy food choices. This is the underlying principle of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), started in 1946. The federal school lunch and breakfast program caters to twenty-nine million school children daily and aims to provide nutritionally balanced meals at a cost of seven million a year to taxpayers (Fried and Simon, 1492). 99% of all public schools and 83% of private schools participate in the program which reimburses the cost of the breakfast and lunch and provides commodity supplies (Leviton, 43). The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides dietary guidelines and nutritional standards for schools in implementing the NSLP. Based on recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the NSLP aims to “enhance the diet and health of school children, and help mitigate the childhood obesity trend” (USDA web site). Schools are required to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk and reduce the levels of sodium and saturated fats. The ‘Farm to School’ program attempts to bring fresh, locally produced food into school cafeterias and introduce children to farms, gardening, and cooking. In theory, all schools under the NSLP provide balanced nutritional meals. However, the reality is different: a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that 94 percent of school lunches failed to meet the USDA’s regulatory standards regarding the sodium or total fat standards. Dana Woldow, a mother who is a volunteer in her children’s school nutrition committee, says, “In the school cafeteria you could buy soda, potato chips, snack cakes, corndogs, French fries, apple turnovers, ice cream --you know, carnival food” (Christensen). This is largely because frozen and processed foods are cheaper than fresh or organic produce and the NSLP is under-funded. Schools also procure pre-cooked food as they do not have kitchens. It is clear that there is much room for improvement in school cafeteria’s ability to provide a nutritious diet for all students. The healthy food offerings in school cafeterias are significantly off-set by the availability of ‘competitive food.’ This term refers to foods of little nutritional value which compete with the NSLP funded school breakfast and
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This essay is focused on the problem of the childhood obesity. It is stated in the text that Childhood Obesity is assuming the proportions of an epidemic in America. Research shows that “More children are overweight today than at any other time in US history”. …
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12 pages (3000 words)Essay
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