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2010 March 9

For the past two years I have been volunteering at a local elementary school in my hometown. Only recently did I have a chance to see the cafeteria. Scanning the trays I saw the “typical” cafeteria foods : pizza, hotdogs, and hamburgers. Rarely did I see fruits and vegetables, but I always saw some sort of sweet on nearly every tray in the cafeteria.

This is part of the reason why there is a childhood obesity epidemic taking over the county. Kids are simply eating the foods that they like best, most of these foods being processed and lacking the essential nutrients that their bodies need.

Unhealthy diets do not only reside in the school, however. With the increasing amounts of microwavable meals and packaged foods, a home-cooked meal is quickly becoming a rarity and a thing of the past. We are trading health for convenience. Popping something into the microwave or oven takes less energy and time than making a home-cooked meal. The nutrients that we could be getting from fruits and vegetable are overshadowed by these extremely processed foods. Theses foods are often high in fat, sugars, and calories and lacking important nutrients that aren’t only harmful to the health of children, but to adults as well. Adults must then serve as an example. If they are eating well then their children will eat well also.

Children are almost completely reliant on their authority figures to provide them with appropriate meals. Therefore, it is important that we go to those authority figures, the school administrators and the parents, to encourage healthy diets for children. There must be a shift in the way that children are eating. No more should their staple foods be that of pizza, hotdogs, and hamburgers. More fresh and prepared meals must be given to children.

It may take a little more time and effort to make home-cooked meals or pack a child’s lunch, but the small amount of time and effort added to preparing healthy foods should not be overridden by the health benefits. Also, the packing of a school lunch and preparation of a meal can be a learning experience for children as they can learn how to cook and pack their own lunches while learning about what foods are wholesome.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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38 Responses leave one →
  1. Jim Jonas permalink
    March 9, 2010

    I really do like this Blog
    I Love these informational Blogs to help us understand the weaknesses of our American Society woes that can and should be fundamentally fixed.
    Children of my age group has had recess before lunch and in the afternoon one half hour of phys Ed everyday.This was Elementary School. Now Elementary even Jr.High or middle schools have literary none. As you have witness and saw school lunches and no movement or P.E. this how the obesity epidemic in the world today expands. Now we take drugs and or they are going to give us drugs when the FDA allows a vote Friday the 12th of March to lose weight to controlled with Diabetes.
    Something is wrong here. Let’s get our heads straight again.Let us look at history and repeat that works? We know it does.WE know the act of working out WORKS Get phys ED programs back in schools

  2. Joan permalink
    March 9, 2010

    You’re right, Jim–kids used to run around, play tag, ride bikes, shoot hoops, whatever.
    Looks like kids today would rather sit, in front of the TV, the computer, or just sit and text each other.
    That’s going to be tough to change! But I’m glad someone is taking a serious look at this problem.

  3. Jackenson Durand permalink
    March 9, 2010

    We can never talk about childhood obesity and healthy diets without thinking about the key challenge which is “sport”.
    We would find this challenge theory outside homes recreational life.

  4. kerry krcek permalink
    March 9, 2010

    I do think it has become the time that we adults start taking some responsibility for what is happening to children of today. The big gulp, and all the convenient highly processed foods that are readily available in the homes of kids today(NOT GOOD). What kind of a world are we creating, we seem to be preoccupied with getting the money to consume and live way beyond our means, that their is no one at home to set healthy examples for our children today. Convenience in technology is not always the betterment of society. We need to be more mindful of what we consume, and eat whole unprocessed foods, with the least amount of sugar and salt and fat added. We need to get our butts outside and move our bodies on and everyday basis.Walk up the stairs and avoid the elevator, walk in the airports instead of using the people mover. Ride your bike around town. It really is not that hard, if were going to have quality of longevity, we’re going to have to start eating whole food and moving the body. Be the example and not the preacher.

  5. wade harter permalink
    March 9, 2010

    Sad to say but it is a sign of the times. Those responsible in the cafeteria more than likely do not care and it seems that many parents also do not care. When my age group came along we sat at the table to eat and ate every bite of what ever was put on our plate which was peas, cornbread, greens, corn etc. Now the new generation lets the children (and themselves) eat any where they want to and anything they want to. Outside sports seems out of fashion. TV and computer games is the in thing. It is also the same with the economy. We want nothing to do with manufacturing. Let low wage overseas workers do this while we sit in front of a computer. May our eyes be opened before it is to late.

  6. Al Bannet permalink
    March 9, 2010

    The basic syndriome is the child who is allowed to sit watching TV and munching on varoius snacks because the parent or guardian doesn’t want to interact with them, but needs them where they can find them. So television becomes the number one baby sitter often from birth, thus creating a lifelong dedicated consumer of whatever is available. The parents are happy, the corporations are happy and the child is almost happy if not for his or her obesity and chronic illness. Obviously, the TV should be turned off and the whole family go out to the Park, or on a trip to the country, or to the Library, anywhere but in front the of the television.

  7. David Mc permalink
    March 10, 2010

    I remember unstructured play time. It was a big part of childhood, even at school.

  8. Montez Ashley permalink
    March 10, 2010

    I can just visualize the impact if we all worked outside of our silos and addressed the ills of our nation head on… Thanks EPA for making a step in that direction

  9. Lori permalink
    March 10, 2010

    My mom worked in the cafeteria when i was a child, and i didn’t like the food then. I remember being a cafeteria helper, and the kid’s did not like most of the food served to them. To me, this was very sad. So i decided to speak to someone in charge to hopefully make a difference and see some menu options change for the better health interest of our children. However, i found out that it was “All About Budget”. I started to send my children to school with lunches from home. Later , i tried to get on the board which makes decisions on these program menu’s, which i was told they were looking for input on healthy lunch options for our children. No one got back with me. We all need moderation and physical activity. We need a healthy balance of nutriution , a variety, & smaller portions. So i decided to be an example for my family of what i eat and do for my health. We are educated when shopping for groceries, that, we can all do :) & it gives a good feeling of accomplishment knowing your taking care of what is important, you and your loved ones.

  10. Al Bannet permalink
    March 10, 2010

    Good for you Lori.

  11. A Mom permalink
    March 11, 2010

    Unfortunately, foods that are more nutritional cost more. I live in a very rural area with a high rate of under employment and unemployment. The number of children receiving free or reduced price meals at school is very high. These families have to purchase what they can afford and too often those foods are junk.

  12. Al Bannet permalink
    March 11, 2010


    Maybe you could organize a community garden, then you and your neighbors could grow your own fresh vegitables and fruits. This is a growing movement around the World and I’m sure you will find several links to websites that present gardening programs. Just go to Google and type in community gardens then Search. Good luck.

  13. Bob permalink
    March 12, 2010

    While I agree with much of what this blog says, I find it remarkable that we accept the budget cuts and lack of a strick agenda that supports physical health within our schools. Isn’t the health and welfare of our children the most important role our educational system plays in our lives? And, isn’t teaching nutrition and physical fitness a major part of what we should expect from our pubilc schools? Why do we accept less?

  14. Al Bannet permalink
    March 12, 2010

    So many millions of people accept less because the educational system failed to teach them when they were children, so they respond blindly to commercial advertising and their children copy their parents’ behavior, and that is exactly what the economy is based on, a growing population of impulse-driven consumers.

  15. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    March 13, 2010

    It will take the involvement of the parents in educating the children in healthy diets, and children learn by example. So if the parents have a poor diet that will be something that passes on to the children. Television advertising and print and radio marketing campaigns are the worst things for support of good diets and its parents that must be the childrens’ vaccine against commercial exploitation in putting together good diets. Another group with this very same problem is adult children with disabilities living in group homes. I see this a lot too. Processed foods cost a lot less than a good nutritional meal does and takes the group home staff a lot less time to fix. So a number of the group home clients are over weight, a lot are excessively so. Maybe group homes is another area where more invovlvement by the parents with their adult disabled children would be a great thing. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  16. Al Bannet permalink
    March 16, 2010

    Budgets are being cut across the country and around the nation, so the deficiencies are bound to get worse, until families and communities decide to work together and grow their own fruits and vegetables in their own gardens and orchards.

  17. Aaron Bolesta permalink
    April 6, 2010

    I agree with Bob. The research is out there, we know this type of food leads to diabetes and horrible health later on. The cost of treating diabetes alone should prompt action to remove these foods from schools. I think one step in the right direction is getting the soda machines out of schools which is happening now I believe. If kids were fed what humans used to eat before all the processing occurred the Paleo Diet they could easily cut diabetes by more than half! How much money and lives would that save?

  18. computer trading permalink
    May 30, 2010

    thank for excellent article

  19. pool panels solar permalink
    May 30, 2010

    While I agree with much of what this blog says

  20. Manjunath permalink
    June 3, 2010

    Obesity is a silent killer. It damages human body more than most people think. Changing lifestyle is causing many people obesity. It is time people should live active life and stay fit to the old age. Unfortunately, children are in the great risk to obesity and develop many diseases when become adults.

    Hypertension is, nowadays, found in most of urban dwellers due to increasing dependence on junk food or fast food and work related sedentary lives. Unless we urge people to change their ways of living, our society could find increased number of sick people over a period.

  21. alexis diaz permalink
    September 28, 2010

    Most of all the authority figures must take this seriously, in fact they are responsible on how children comply with healthy eating. We all know that children follow only what they see, and by that we all have to be careful to give the best for them and to show them the right food to eat.

  22. Henry permalink
    October 4, 2010

    Good article and so right you are. We really need role models and also role model companies in order to turn the trend and the way we are heading. More infomercials informing on the best diets So it will be easy for people, parents and kids to get back on track.

  23. SimonS permalink
    October 6, 2010

    A proper fitness regimen is very important for both the body and the mind.

    Even though a lot of research is going on in this direction and there are so many websites, books, etc. on the topic, a lot of us are still obese and not healthy.

    What seems to be lacking?


  24. Kim - The Every Other Day Diet permalink
    October 6, 2010

    That’s why the family is the basic unit of the society. All good values and discipline fit for growing up kids must always start at home. Parents should follow the right diet themselves.

  25. Samantha permalink
    October 10, 2010

    The obesity is not normal but it can be prevented. Its the parents that can control their children but they still letting them eat too much but then their children will be the one who will suffer obesity after all.

    Nice blog buddy. Thanks for sharing this. You can also try to check this link and it might help you on your health problem specially to those who are suffering obesity.

  26. Walterj permalink
    October 10, 2010

    In order to get a handle on our children’s obesity we must first and foremost educate ourselves. Its just not enough to tell them what they can or cannot eat, we also must tell them the why even at an early age. When our children are at the age of comprehension thats when we need to be at our informative best. We must also lead by example. That is not to say we must deny them all treats, but we must exercise
    intemperance and excess.

  27. Kyle permalink
    December 18, 2010

    Thanks for this wonderfule post. Are you facebook or twitter?

  28. Fadi permalink
    December 21, 2010

    I certainly agree with you. People these days are leading a sedentary way of life. They would rather face their computers and play than go out and do some physical games like basketball. The world has changed a lot.

  29. Barry Ferguson permalink
    January 24, 2011

    This is a major problem withour society. We can fight childhood obesity but it takes parents who are committed to being role models kids can look up to. Leading by example with what they eat and when to eat it. School lunches, on the other hand, will never be fixed because it is all about money. This, for me, is completely foolish because it’s going to costs a lot more later to fix the problem and for health care costs for these children. You can learn more about helping children eat a more balanced diet at:

  30. Barry Ferguson permalink
    March 13, 2011

    Thgank GOD for this blog! I agree totally with us having a major problem with what our kids are eating in the school cafeteria. Healthy food such as fruits and vegetables instead of hot dogs and pizza is a must. The problem is, parents really need to get involved big time! Do they even know what the cafererias are serving? Do they really care? Only when parents finally get up and make a stand will things change. Unfortunately, that will not happen for a very long time. We all know money for school funding is tight but good nutrition is as important as reading, writing and arithmetic.

  31. Jeffg permalink
    July 20, 2011

    I have bookmarked this article so I can come back later and read it again. It’s extremely interesting, well-researched and written. I rarely see great material these days. Thank you.


  32. Meal program permalink
    October 5, 2011

    If you work hard at exercising, you do not want to spoil all of your hard work by eating way too much and eating food that just is not healthy for you. Of course you can treat yourself once in awhile or even make delicious looking desserts that are low fat and low calorie. A dessert such as sugar-free Jell-O or sugar-free pudding and whip cream make a tasty and light dessert. Place the Jell-O or pudding in a glass, alternate with whip cream until the glass is full. You may want to add a few banana slices and walnuts at the top of the dessert.

  33. Carl Vining permalink
    October 25, 2011

    As a parent, we are responsible for our child’s health. We must be guide them of what they eat specially when they are still a child. Because as of there age, they never know if what they were eating is good for them. We must teach them what the proper diet is.

  34. Timothy Matzke permalink
    October 25, 2011

    Eating is the most favorite of the children aside of playing. As a parent, I want the best for my child. I want to give them nutritious food but unfortunately i cant afford because most nutritious foods now is in a high cost.

  35. Opal Faison permalink
    October 26, 2011

    Parent must pay attention if their children having an Obesity problems. In addition, parents must secure that their child understands that they can make a difference in their weight and that parents will support them all the way.

  36. July 24, 2012

    Lifestyle and diet are very important. If parents Follow healthy lifestyle, it will be so much easier for kids to follow it too. Overweight parents telling kids not to eat too much chocolate is not goign to be very convincing …

  37. Jane Sanders permalink
    April 18, 2013

    Its really true. Every parents should to conscious about their children food. Its a good resource for children foods. Thanks for sharing :)

    Kind regards,
    Jane Sanders, Beautician

  38. diva permalink
    March 31, 2014

    i think closer diets are the solution

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