Does Participation in a School Lunch Program Increase the Incidence of Obesity in Low Income Children?
America is under the influence of an epidemic - obesity. It is becoming one of the greatest health problems facing the nation. Healthy practices begin at an early age and most obese children grow up to be overweight adults. Therefore, it is important that students eat healthy meals at school at a young age. However, school meals have been criticized as unhealthy and some students have no choice whether to eat the lunch or not. Low-income children receive free or reduced price lunches and do not have the ability to brown bag or bring alternatives that are more nutritious. Because the school lunch program contains foods that are high in fat and calories, low-income students are more likely than other students to become obese because they are more likely to be eating the lunches. To examine this problem, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data on the eating and exercise habits of these children are investigated. This study fills a gap in the literature by specifically examining low-income students and their diet, exercise, and income levels rather than looking at all students who eat school lunches. This study did not support the hypothesis that school lunch programs contribute to childhood obesity but it did have significant results that were supported by the literature. Variables like age, race, income, hours a child participates in sedentary activities, and gender all contribute to childhood obesity according to this model. Overall, the models have strong predictive power and still provide insight into the causes of childhood obesity even without proving the hypothesis. Recommendations include utilizing the pervasive nature of the National School Lunch Program to promote healthy eating in schools. This not only includes providing healthier food in the lunches, but also providing education programs on healthy eating, nutrition, and lifestyle as part of the core curriculum.
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