School lunches need to be more nutritious

To many, the U.S. is considered a nation of fat people.

According to Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” website, the childhood obesity rate has tripled in the past three decades. One in three children are now overweight or obese. The increase in numbers could very well be attributed to their sedentary lifestyle, composed of eating, playing video games, going on Facebook and sleeping.

Keeping a kid healthy at home is a parent’s responsibility, but providing nutritious food at a public school should be a priority for the government.

It is for this reason that the U.S Department of Agriculture proposed a new rule to improve nutrition standards for public schools’ breakfasts and lunches. Under this rule the amount of sodium and saturated fat would be cut and an increase in fruits, vegetables, whole grain and low-fat milk would be seen.

According to CNN, it will also reduce traditional lunch staples like pizza and french fries. This collective effort will reduce the total number of calories for lunches for young children to between 550 and 650 and for high school students to between 750 and 850 calories.

According to estimates released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 26 million Americans older than 20 have diabetes. According to the National Institutes of Health, 80 percent of type 2 diabetics are overweight, something that can be controlled by an individual. The estimated cost for treating diabetes was $174 billion in 2007, according to the CDC.

Starting a healthier approach from a young age must be a priority, if only to help formulate good habits. Habits developed in childhood can shape a child’s future, and obesity can lead to many other cardiovascular diseases.

One may argue that it should be parents’ right to control what their kids eat and not the government, but this approach and understanding has clearly not worked out.

However, the new initiative has come with opponents.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin criticized the first lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative on Laura Ingraham’s radio show in November, saying, “Take her anti-obesity thing that she is on. … What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat.”

It is not about the trust of parents, but it sure is about responsibility.

Public schools are funded by the government, which can provide them with any food it would like, and healthier options have more advantages than disadvantages. Some things are best left alone without politics.

It is a well-planned rule and will hopefully come into effect, since it is about time we stop spending tax money on diseases that could easily be prevented by establishing healthy eating habits at a young age.

Zahira Babwani is a senior majoring in biomedical science.