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Through a report last week to the Shelby County School Board, we now understand that our children are eating healthier at school than we might have expected.
Shelby County Public Schools appear to be ahead of the new federal guidelines that are being handed down – guidelines that we believe are much needed in feeding kids who too often prefer a meal to be a soft drink and some French fries – and we find that to be a delicious concept.
There is a runaway childhood obesity problem in this country, and Kentucky is leading that race in the wrong direction. Children across our state are more obese than their counterparts in almost every other state, and that’s a statistic we can’t quite get our arms around.
School lunches – historically a variety of foods offered only because vendors know students will buy them – often are seen as the hair in the soup of good nutrition.
Students skip lunch or, in the past, simply have dropped by vending machines for some bubbly sugar-water and sugary or salty snacks.
First, many schools replaced soft drinks and other high-fat snacks in machines, and now we understand that what your students are seeing in their cafeterias are foods that are familiar but cooked with ingredients or in a manner that reduces fat and carbohydrate content and increases nutritional value.
And even more important, the number of students eating school lunches in Shelby County has increased by 16 percent, which means more kids are being exposed to healthier options every day.
That, to us, appears to be the entrée to this meal.
Good nutrition and obesity issues are really a home problem. Like good study habits, school attendance and attentiveness, only parental figures can have a positive impression.
In our county, that, sadly, is not happening in enough homes. Parents give their children lunch money or allow them to pack high-fat, high-caloric foods into their lunch boxes.
Too many don’t seem to care about what their children are eating, only that they are. Those same families are fueling the fast-food epidemic that is sapping the health of our country and will, in time, continue to increase the overwhelming cost of medical treatment and insurance.
If we can’t start at home in teaching our students how to eat properly, at least we can ensure that for one or two meals a day and for the snacks surrounding them that they are offered only healthy options.
This won’t solve the nutritional and obesity problem, but it will give the effort a chair at the table of good health.