The Lunchroom Lesson

October 30, 2009

Parents want nothing but the best for their kids and this includes, of course, their health

Parents want nothing but the best for their kids and this includes, of course, their health. Studies linking the consumption of certain foods and nutrients to improved (or sustained) health and decreased disease risk are making headlines weekly, if not daily. We have finally realized – unfortunately due to the rising rates of diseases like heart disease and obesity – that eating a variety of foods, which includes a good helping of fresh fruits and vegetables, is essential to good health; and an imperative reality that we can not continue to ignore. In fact, the most recent publication of The World Health Organization (WHO), Global Health Risks, released earlier this week, found that four out of the five leading risks for global mortality were directly related to nutrition and physical activity.

The question is, “what can we do to change the course?” The Lempert Report endorses the idea, inspired by an admittedly less-than-scientific study gauging the effect of rewarding kids for eating fruits and vegetables with their school lunches. The ‘study’ observed first, second and fourth graders during their lunch periods. Students were given a choice of several fruits and vegetables in addition to their regular lunch fare. Results demonstrated that when kids were rewarded for consuming fruits and vegetables, they ate almost twice as many as when no reward was offered. After the study period, kids were asked to rate the fruits and vegetables, and as compared with pre-study ratings, post-study ratings ranked higher.

We are not suggesting strict nutrition lunch-lessons, nor do we recommend forcing kids to eat fruits and vegetables – as this would probably have the opposite effect – but instead let’s make nutrition interesting and fun. The addition of a small selection of seasonal and locally grown fruits and vegetables to the lunch menu will assist in making these foods more acceptable and normal parts of our everyday diets; as they should be. Let next year’s WHO report be less about the preventable causes of mortality, and let’s work towards changing the face and figures of our future.

The reality is depressing, and as one can only imagine, the statistics for the United States alone would be multiples of these numbers. What to do? How do we fight back against the rising rates of preventable chronic disease? The answer for permanent change is to target kids!   

Here’s why:

U.S. disease related deaths: 2,426,264/ year

•    Heart disease: 631,636
•    Cancer: 559,888
•    Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 137,119
•    Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 124,583
•    Accidents (unintentional injuries): 121,599
•    Diabetes: 72,449

Source: Centers for Disease Control