Why healthy school meals matter
Overweight and obesity are among the most urgent health challenges facing our country today. Excess weight contributes to many of the leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Seventeen percent of children in the U.S. are obese. From 1980 to 2000, obesity rates for adults doubled and rates for children tripled.
- Costs of obesity are increasing. Adjusted for inflation, adult obesity costs increased from $75 billion per year in 1998 to $147 billion per year in 2006.
- A number of changes have led to the obesity epidemic: relative prices of healthful foods have increased faster than prices for less healthful foods, increased portion sizes, increased consumption of processed foods typically higher in sodium and increased schools vending and a la carte foods.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report found that foods from the school cafeteria contribute a mean of 19 percent of the daily food energy intake of all children on school days. School Breakfast and School Lunch Program participants obtain about half of their food energy intake for the day from school cafeteria foods.