Slate’s Hive is tackling childhood obesity this week. The editors have invited writers and experts to contribute thought-provoking essays and readers to submit their ideas for solutions. My essay, Why School Lunch is Not the Answer, is the first in the series.
In the piece, I argue that overhauling school food is an important task. The National School Lunch Program is the country’s second largest program for feeding hungry citizens, spending $8 billion annually on meats, grains, and produce. And the USDA estimates that many school children get as much as 50 percent of their calories at school.
But amid all the media attention to school-based obesity-prevention efforts, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that improved school nutrition alone is not nearly enough to reverse the appalling rates of childhood obesity in America, where one in three children is overweight or obese. That other 50 percent of kids’ caloric intake still needs to be addressed. The reasons school-food reform became a rallying point have more to do with political strategy than with the likelihood that school meals will fundamentally change children’s eating habits or help them lose weight. Simply put, it’s just easier to attack the way the government feeds kids than the way their parents do.
Slate readers already are submitting their ideas for what we must do to beat back childhood obesity. Add your ideas to the site. Or comment here about my piece or other suggestions.