Injecting Some Science Into School Lunch Policy
    By News Staff | May 27th 2014 12:54 PM | 23 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    First Lady Michelle Obama may mean well, but overturning school lunch policy based on the beliefs of someone who was paid $300,000 per year to do community outreach for a university wasn't really helping the poor children for whom a school lunch may be their most meaningful meal of the day.

    Mandating fruit, which is what the USDA required in 2012, is fine, except a lot of it goes in the garbage. Most decisions are based on fads and gimmicks rather than real data.

    Vermont's Charlotte Central school cafeteria has basically a restaurant menu, with locally sourced ingredients, including herbs and vegetables from the playground garden. There's just one problem; the higher cost is obvious but does it work?

    Rachel Johnson, a Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont, and undergraduates recently imaged children's trays when they left the lunch line and then again when they finished eating. They had already weighed and photographed a correct portion of each fruit and vegetable item offered, as well as analyzed recipes to determine how much fruit and vegetable a serving contained.

    You can mandate fruits and vegetables, but you can't make kids eat. Scholars measure the meal kids actually consume. Credit: Photo: Sally McCay

    Then they compared before and after photos with the comparison data to determine consumption, a less labor-intensive means of assessing dietary intake compared to the current gold standard of individually weighing portions selected before a child can eat against plate waste. 

     The process involves taking the tray image at an accurate angle for later analysis, while also capturing the number on lanyards that participating children wear to track the trays. In their article, they talk about how great their method is, and perhaps it is, but there is still no data showing lunch interventions like farm-to-school programs and school gardens actually lead to preferences for risotto or any other fancy concoction.

    In an earlier Journal of Child Nutrition and Management, they found that the fruits and vegetables that students are choosing at lunch are largely processed versions, primarily 100 percent fruit juice and high calorie entrees such as pizza and lasagna, with the tomato in the sauce qualifying as a vegetable.

    But Johnson is optimistic that over time, with the introduction of appealing whole fruits and vegetables into familiar favorites, for instance, that kids will come around. Research associate Bethany Yon, in a study recently published in the Journal of School Health, found that it's worked with flavored milk. When the dairy industry, in advance of impending regulations, started to reformulate flavored milk, traditionally high in both fat and sugar content, they did so incrementally, by reducing either fat or sugar to lower calories. Yon's work, using shipment data as a proxy for consumption, has shown that, after some small blips, milk consumption has stayed consistent. "It was nice to see," she says, "that small, subtle changes go unnoticed overall by students."

    That milk, as Johnson has known since her earliest days as a researcher, is critical. As people first became concerned about childhood obesity, Johnson started looking at beverage consumption and how that impacted the overall quality of a child's diet. Between 1940 and the 1990s, she says, the curve makes a big X with soft drink consumption going up and milk consumption going down. "We were one of the first to sound this alarm," she says, "showing that when kids don't have milk at lunch they don't come close to meeting their dietary needs -- and the beverages displacing milk add empty calories." 

     Published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
    Source: University of Vermont


    why was in necessary to slam Michelle Obama?

    because she's an idiot...

    Because she's the one pushing this ill-thought out medecine on kids who won't eat the stuff.
    Let's also remember that she was only paid $300,000 after her Illinois congressman husband talked the congress into giving her hospital a grant of several million dollars. What a coincidence!

    Because MÇhelle Obama, like all collectivists - Marxists, seeks to impose a government-dictated, top-down solution to a feel-good problem that only she (with help of a manipulative government) can fix. While exempting herself and her children from these solutions, of course.

    The whole system needs to be thrown away and started over. Several times my youngest took her lunch and only wanted to get her milk from the school and she was told she had to purchase an entire lunch to get the milk. So I paid $2. for milk and the rest of the lunch was trashed. What a waste. BUT - if she wants extras like ice cream or candy, that's ok, she can get those a la carte. The system is a joke as it stands now.

    As most parents know all you can do is offer your children healthy food AND make sure that they do not have access to too much junk food. We must get bad food out of the schools. Hungry children will eat vegetables and fruits unless they've already filled up on junk food or can get it whether or not they eat. My kids didn't get dessert or snacks unless they finished their dinner. Today, in their 30's both are healthy and eat properly.

    I agree with the post above. Why trash the First Lady when she is trying to help our children.

    why trash the first lady? because she is a know it all that thinks we are supposed to listen to her on any topic. She wasn't elected to any position so why in the world is she taking the lead on anything. who the F is she to tell students and in essence parents what their children are going to eat or not eat? ego and power run amuck, pure and simple. real problem is those 2 combined is dangerous. these aren't intelligent leaders. these are celebrity wanna be's who just love control, closing in on socialized communism.

    I am sure madame Obama means well. That's very commendable. Unfortunately, forcing others into one's system of beliefs doesn't work well. Perhaps if only reeducation camps were legal. Not feasible otherwise.

    This so-called "science" site is nothing but a partisan hack job. You really have the guts to tell people that Michelle Obama single-handedly changed American school lunches? Purely a hack job. You should change the name to

    I agree. This is completely unacceptable to demonstrate any dissent with our First Lady. Hope the dissenters will be prosecuted and audited by IRS.

    Well, this fake science certainly has attracted the anti-science partisan wingnuts. Way to go fake science site. And to the wingnut about the IRS, that is just another conspiracy theory by you Faux News watchers as everyone concerned with the truth already knows. Bye bye fake science site.

    That's unfortunate! We were hoping to bask in the rays of your brilliance, but you took your intellectual might back to watching the scientific MSNBC programming. Have a wonderful day.

    It is unfortunate that 120,000 science articles here are dismissed due to mentioning the First Lady's impact on school nutrition - since she personally lobbied for it in 2010 and it was part of the president's campaign platform during the 2012 election. It seems odd that this would suddenly be unmentionable and therefore controversial, in a 'you are not doing real science if I disagree' way, since she said today that any attempts to circumvent her arbitrary standard was just evil political opponents and no schools should have a choice in opting out Hungry kids being held hostage to a nutritional gimmick - now that should be controversial.
    Published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

    Nutritionists need science more than anyone - and they are least likely to accept science, as their fetish for conferences with known crackpots, like flying yogic instructors and a woman who thinks if she cannot pronounce a chemical it is harmful, shows. 

    By comparison to most nutrition, this is positively scientific. It is just that compared to actual science it isn't very valid.
    What is this gratuitous personal attack on the first lady doing in a science blog about nutrition ? Can we not disagree with her (and I am not even sure where in the article a disagreement with Mrs. Obama is addressed directly) without being so nasty ?

    Because she's the one pushing this ill-thought out medecine on kids who won't eat the stuff.
    Let's also remember that she was only paid $300,000 after her Illinois congressman husband talked the congress into giving her hospital a grant of several million dollars. What a coincidence!

    Why would the kids even think to eat fresh fruit and vegetables? Their parent's aren't buying them with their food stamp cards. Chips and soda are the way. That is why there is more obesity in low income families.

    Why does Michelle Obama think she knows what's best for kids to eat?
    If she is so worried about childhood obesity, why doesn't she talk to the only people that can make a difference? THE PARENTS!
    Preach to the parents about good eating & physical fitness instead of mandating a bunch of nonsense foods that kids don't eat!
    Is it really any big surprise that kids aren't eating vegetibles & fruit?
    When I was in school, I was eating chiken nuggets & burgers like they were going out of style. For a dessert I would have candy bars or the little choclate covered Peanut butter bars. Then downing either Kool-aid, Coke or a Pepsi. The I went into the military and my diet was 4 burgers a day for almost 3 years straight. Today, I eat fast food about 5-7 times a week. Still 155lbs because I do more than play video games!
    It's not about the food! It's what you do after you eat! These kids now days all have a phone and do nothing else but use that phone as a source of excercise (Playing video games don't really count)!

    I think the question may be what the particular children are used to eating. If the only place they see fresh fruit is in school, I find it unsurprising that they won't eat it. Children strongly imitate their parents, and if their parents do not eat the fruit, getting them to eat it is not something a mandatory program to put the fruit on the plate of the children can accomplish without more. Where the fault goes for the failure of this specific program to not anticipate what I think a problem that could have been anticipated, I do not know. She was a lawyer, not a child psychologist or a nutritionist.

    Nice to bring science into the picture which are facts that Democrats don't want to hear. Hats off to Michelle for seeing a problem. But her methods and attitudes are typical liberal. "......You will do as a I say and if you fight back I will label you a racist." This is the leftist tactic that has been used though out Obama's career. She is not a doctor, nutritionist or farmer. Perhaps if she were so informed she'd insist on organic fruits and veggies free of pesticides.

    In The New York Times (of course) the first lady doubles down on her unscientific belief that poor people on food stamps will be saved if they stop eating potatoes.

    Bonus, she declares that if you disagree with her, you are anti-science.