Elementary schoolchildren eating lunches at schools participating in the federally funded National School Lunch Program are more likely to become overweight, said a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who co-authored the study sponsored by U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But children eating both federally funded school breakfasts and school lunches tend to be leaner than those eating only the lunch, SMU economist Daniel L. Millimet said.
“I think breakfast is a more important meal in terms of maintaining a healthy weight than lunch,” Millimet said.
Also, other studies have indicated school breakfasts comply better with government nutrition regulations than school lunches, he said.
The new study also showed that children who ate both school breakfasts and lunches tended to be healthier than children who brought lunches from home and didn’t eat school breakfasts, he said.
The study’s results don’t mean school lunches as served on the tray cause weight gain, Millimet said.
He suspects a la carte items play a big part.
“If you’re buying hot lunch, then you can just throw an ice cream sandwich on your tray as you’re paying and obviously pay for it out of your pocket,” he said.
Schools’ biggest challenge is coming up with healthy, cost-effective meals kids will eat, Millimet said.
San Angelo Independent School District nutrition and wellness coordinator Betty Teston said children eating school breakfast are probably not famished by lunchtime, but children who don’t eat breakfast are hungrier and more likely to choose less more fattening foods.
And Teston has seen unhealthy food like candy, cookies and big bags of chips come out of lunchboxes brought from home, she said.
Could it be some children eating both school breakfast and lunch are leaner because pantries are bare at home?
“We do have kids that come to breakfast the next morning, and they’re just starving,” Teston said. “Maybe they didn’t get a whole lot for dinner.”
In Texas, nearly one-third of 10- to 17-year-olds were overweight or obese in 2009, according to the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The study followed the same group of more than 13,500 children from diverse socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds from kindergarten in 1998 through the eighth grade in 2007. They were from across the United States.
Millimet wrote the study with economist Rusty Tchernis of Georgia State University and economist Muna S. Hussain of Kuwait University.
The study, “School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity,” was published in the summer issue of The Journal of Human Resources.
Source: Go Sanangelo
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