If the current trend continues, a new report indicates, 62 percent of the adult population of Kansas in 2030 will be obese. That would contribute to an estimated 367,000 new cases of Type 2 diabetes and 769,000 new cases of heart disease and stroke.
With that in mind, is it unreasonable to try to instill some better eating habits in Kansas youngsters?
The intersection of these two issues in recent news coverage seems undeniable. The obesity study, “F is for Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future,” was released last week by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The previous week, U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., co-sponsored a bill that would eliminate calorie limits for school lunches established as part of 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The law is designed in part to address childhood obesity, but Huelskamp, who represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, indicated he had received complaints about school lunches leaving students in his district hungry.
The goal of the law that Huelskamp and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, are attacking is to make school lunches more healthy. The new law mandates an increase in federal subsidies for school meal programs, but it also requires those programs to increase the availability of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk, and to set limits on calories and saturated fat.
Those limits don’t seem particularly draconian. Meals for students in kindergarten through fifth grade can includes up to 650 calories. That goes up to 700 calories for seventh- and eighth-graders and to 850 calories for high school lunches. The idea is for schools to offer students more low-calorie foods instead of relying on high-calorie standards. Many schools, including some in the Lawrence area, have responded by limiting the size of entrees but offering virtually unlimited amounts of fruits and vegetables to students. If children are going hungry at lunch, it may be because they need to make different choices.
The new lunch guidelines represent a change, which is bound to cause some negative reaction, but sometimes change can promote a learning process. If students develop a taste for healthy foods that also keeps them from being hungry, perhaps the state can defy that 2030 obesity prediction.