Research Find School Lunches Contributed to Kids Being Overweight

Aug 31, 2016

For many Milwaukee students, the first day of school is just around the corner, which also means a return to the lunchroom.

School lunches have been a hot button topic for years. First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her mission to make them healthier, and politicians from both sides of the aisle have voiced their own opinions on the issue.

In 2010, congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, or HHFKA, which places certain dietary requirements on school lunches and regulates things like calories, sodium and fat content.

Some Republicans decried the act as government overreach and unnecessary. But a recent analysis of school lunches served in the decade before the act found that students eating food provided by the National School Lunch Program had a significantly higher risk of becoming overweight.

The data used in the analysis was recorded from students who participated anywhere from 1998 through 2007, the most recent available data. 

The study found that low-income students who at school lunches were more likely to be overweight, and in rural and impoverished areas that effect was amplified. Kristen Capogrossi is one of the authors on the study, and she hopes her research serves as a stepping stone for further analysis on the subject. 

"I think the research shows that this is an important area that continues to need research. This is one study that looked at one population of students from one data set, and I think a lot more could continue to be done to look at this issue overall," says Capogrossi. "I think it also shows the extent to which school meal policy can influence children's nutrition and their weight status." 

Kristen Capogrossi is an author of "The Influence of School Nutrition Programs on the Weight of Low-Income Students: A Treatment Effect Analysis" and works for RTI International.