Three second-graders stand in line for lunch: John, Alyssa, and Jake. One out of these three innocent children suffers from being overweight or obese. This is not by random chance.
"A Review of Childhood Obesity" by Dr. Kumar and Dr. Kelly and other studies support the fact that one-in-three children in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is plaguing schools and not enough is being done to stop this epidemic from spreading further.
Proper nutrition is one of the most important steps for obesity prevention, which is why schools need to implement healthier food options and be held accountable for their nutrition standards.
Children eat at least one, if not more meals every day at school, indicating that food offered at schools are a major part of a child's diet. The Institute of Medicine has stated that our current generation can be the first to experience a shorter life span than their parents due to adult-type diseases appearing in children at such a young age.
Obesity increases a child's risk for Type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol and hypertension, which are all health conditions that a child should not be worried about at such a young age.
All school meals should follow the USDA's MyPlate guidelines. MyPlate is the current nutrition guide with suggestions on how to feed children healthy and nutritious meals. Instead, many schools are serving foods that are high in sodium, fats and added sugars, which exacerbate the childhood obesity epidemic.
The Illinois State Board of Education has some regulations on nutrition and physical education in schools, but due to loopholes, enforcement of certain regulations is not effective.
Being a parent, you should have the reassurance that the place you send your child for the majority of the week is doing the most to keep your child healthy. Many parents are not aware of the nutritional content their child is consuming during the school day, which is worrisome.
If schools followed guidelines for MyPlate for every meal option served, children will at least be eating the proper nutritional content for one meal of their day.
By following the guidelines for every meal option served, this will also prevent children from choosing an unhealthy option over the healthy option at schools where there is a choice of what to eat.
Children look up to their parents, their teachers and their role models for guidance through life. How can we stand on the sidelines and do nothing to address the lack of healthy school lunches when childhood obesity is so prevalent?
We have a responsibility to today's youth to make the healthy option, the easy option.