We’re Watching What You(r kids) Eat

A few folks have already posed some interesting questions regarding the announcement that $2 million USD has recently been dropped in San Antonio so that schools can take photos of every child’s lunch before and after eating. Reports of these pictures will then be sent to parents.  This is all in an effort to reduce, of course, obesity and diabetes risk.

What I want to pose here as this program gets underway with nearly 90% parent approval (of a measure which assumes THEY are just simply not aware of how poorly their children are eating, something which this act of photographic evidence provision shall magically cure, thereby….solving fatness??), is what happens when it is discovered that kids, fat or thin, are pretty much eating the same way?

Even in the article extolling the virtues of such a bold initiative, there is a tag-line that:

Researchers warn that obesity is not always the result of children eating too many calories. A previous study by the nonprofit center reported that 44 percent of children studied consumed calories below daily minimum requirements, but nearly one-third were still obese. Seven percent screened positive for type 2 diabetes.

Despite a study already done which showed that nearly HALF of kids don’t eat ENOUGH, this measure to track calories in order to somehow catch fatties in the act is somehow supposed to reduce obesity?? They try to assure us that this program is “just for tracking”; that kids aren’t being informed of what to eat:

“Nothing in the program says they can’t have something,” Davis said. “It just says we’re tracking what it is.”

But what sort of message is it going to start sending to children to know that they are always being watched?  Analyzed?  Found lacking in decision-making somehow (or worrying that this might be the case)?

I also wonder how long it is before kids start screwing with the program by swapping out what they have “leftover” on their bar-coded trays with their friends and neighbors.  I see a fairly simple means of kids and teens fighting against this invasion of privacy and wonder how it will play out on their end.

My thought is that after these metrics start coming in and confirming what this study already showed, it will then be an outcry against parents as officials in the school wag their fingers saying “Ah ha!  Kids aren’t doing it HERE.  Must be you damn fatty parents making your poor kids fat!”

Personally I’d rather that such a large bucket of funding be spent to increase availability of great food choices, improve the local area outdoor spaces (or indoor spaces) for recreation, provide options for healthier living, without the focus on Fat=>unhealthy, giving goals instead of moving around a lot and offering food options that keep eating a pleasure and an energy-giver, rather than making food and exercise into battlegrounds.

It is initiatives like this that really make me wonder about my thoughts of trying to have a child, knowing it has a good chance of being genetically tied to my own body-shape and have a hell of a time with that.

How does this program strike you?  Will it just flop?  Will Michelle Obama just use its results to encourage others to follow suit, perhaps even adding (as Big Liberty pondered) student’s BMIs to the process?  Will this become a true 1984 George Orwellian world wherein your tray rejects or allows certain foods based upon your BMI upon picking it up? Or will this just be swept under the carpet when the results show that kids are doing the best they can, fat or thin, and their school eating habits really don’t vary that much from one size/shape to another?


11 thoughts on “We’re Watching What You(r kids) Eat

  1. You know, I was always a ‘good girl’ in school but the instant I started reading this my first cogent thought was that I would absolutely have gotten together with all my friends to swap leftovers around in the most ridiculous combinations possible… and my parents would have been proud of me for doing so.

    My guess is that when this stupid project wastes two million dollars on photos that actually show there’s no appreciable difference between how fat and thin kids eat (and that kids can be wildly creative when it comes to skewing ridiculous programs like this), the results will be quietly swept under a rug and another district/city/state will get a stupid amount of money to try again where the theory can be ‘proved’ this time, for sure… just like Bullwinkle trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

    In the words of Rocket J. Squirrel: “Again? But that trick never works!”

    Meanwhile, nearly half the kids in San Antonio will continue to try to live and do their schoolwork with empty stomachs.

  2. Here is something I don’t understand–If the school meal is *healthy* and an appropriate portion with appropriate nutrition (not too much of anything or too little) what does it matter if they eat it all? The school meals that I have seen recently are NOT what I would want a child eating and being told is “good for them”–processed chicken patties, 25 ingredient pizza,limited whole grains, very few veggies, very little fruit, and a lot of stuff out of a can. I have a funny feeling that this project will show exactly how disgusting school food has become and exactly how “good for the students” it is.

    • Yeah, I would hope that if any good could come from such efforts it would be to show how poor the nutrition OFFERED is; not how bad kids are a choosing between the awful alternatives!

  3. What does their lunch have to do with their total calories taken in per day anyway? When I was forced to diet as a kid, most of my calories came from the bag of Chips Ahoy I smuggled into my bedroom. I’m sure I could have eaten one lettuce leaf at lunch to prove I was being good and then binged later, out of sight of cameras. Who pays for this stuff? Sheesh.

  4. My first thought about this program was “evil”, the second is “absurd”. Why do they serve school lunches if they expect “good kids” to throw half of it in the trash?

    Considering, when I was a kid, wasting food was seen as a mortal sin, I might go with “evil” yet.

  5. It strikes me, not as a way to prevent kids getting fat on cafeteria slop (ha funny), but as a way to catch those bad, bad, ungrateful children who refuse to eat the leathery, unidentifiable breaded meat patty, the grayish “green” beans, and the apple that’s covered in mealy brown bruises.

    Here’s an idea: Ask the kids what they want to eat. Ask them what they do like about the cafeteria food* and what they don’t. Make it an anonymous survey. Then try to match their most feasible requests.

    *I wish somebody had asked us in grade school before replacing the “bad” partly frozen milk with the “good” tetra-pak milk. The kids I knew liked the partly frozen milk. It tasted extra rich and the coldness was perfect if you happened to be at the head of the line and get a serving of casserole while it was still bubbling.

  6. If your picture above really is a typical school lunch, its 2-3 times what I would eat every day – a sandwich and a fruit. If I wanted a drink, there were water fountains. I didn’t eat enough breakfast either, usually an orange, if anything at all. Didn’t make a difference, I was still fat…like my mother, dad, grandmother and the vast majority of other people in my family.

    I think this is just setting up parents to take a fall, because they certainly won’t believe that the majority of fat children eat the same or less than regular sized kids, therefore if they aren’t getting all those extra calories at school, they must be getting those surplus calories at home. After all we all know the Calories In – Calories Out myth has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt by science.

  7. Personally, I would rather see this money go to lifting people out of poverty in general, because the stress of poverty itself causes more physiological damage than any one external factor, IMO. Then again, if we can piss and moan about unhealthy fatties, we can avoid looking at how people in poverty really live, am I right?

    • DINGDINGDINGDINGDING! Congratulations, Joanna! You figured out the real purpose of this and dozens of progrom… er… programs like it. If we find ways to blame the poor for their problems, we don’t have any obligation to help solve those problems.

      Give food insecure people food… and then shame, blame, and punish them for eating it. It’s positively Orwellian.

  8. Pingback: Obesity and anorexia panic in schools « Zaftig Zeitgeist

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