PUBLICATIONS & TOOLS
- Educating the student body: Taking physical activity and physical education to school
- HBO’s Weight of the Nation™ series premieres new segment focused on children
- Salud America! releases set of materials exploring school snacks and Latino students
- Does better recess equal a better school day?
CHILDHOOD OBESITY RESEARCH & NEWS
- Coca-Cola anti-obesity promises include no advertising to kids
- National parks dishing up healthier fare this summer
- BMI measuring in schools proves controversial issue
- New school lunches get poor reviews
Partnership between public health and green building industry promotes healthy behaviors
May 28, 2013, NCCOR
When public health organizations and the green building industry work together, the result can be more than better buildings. Increased collaboration between public health and the green building industry can also improve health outcomes, such as reducing childhood obesity, by driving changes in the design of buildings and outdoor space to promote physical activity and healthy eating, according to a new article published in the latest issue of theAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM).
“A partnership between investigators in the fields of green building design and public health can not only help establish the evidence for what factors are important in developing healthy and environmentally sustainable buildings and communities, but can also help promote trans-disciplinary research in this arena,” said Dr. Rachel Ballard-Barbash, associate director of the Applied Research Program in the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, and co-author of the study. “Such research has the potential to increase the availability and evaluation of built-environment projects designed to promote health.”
To facilitate this partnership, the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) and the National Academy of Environmental Design (NAED) co-sponsored a 2011 two-day workshop in partnership with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The workshop aligned with a green health research initiative NCCOR members developed in 2010 and included government researchers such as Ballard-Barbash, as well as academic, nonprofıt, and private sector researchers and practitioners from urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and law. Participants examined how environmental design strategies can be used to promote physical activity and healthy eating in school environments.
“The workshop allowed us to assemble professionals from a broad range of design, public health, and environmental sustainability disciplines at the table to learn about each other’s priorities and how they could be combined. It also laid the groundwork for the AJPM article, which describes a set of recommended strategies for green health environmental design research and practice,” said NCCOR contributor Dr. Matthew Trowbridge, the primary author of the study.
These seven recommendations, designed to guide the emerging field of green health research and practice, are the result of the discussion about green health partnerships that began in 2010 through NCCOR:
- Continue to develop evidence-based design guidelines and certification credits focused on improving physical activity and food environments for use within the green building industry.
- Use school environments as a joint focus for childhood obesity prevention and green building research.
- Foster green health environmental design research across a wide array of built-environment contexts and design disciplines such as architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and graphic design.
- Support development of distributed health and environmental surveillance systems for use within green health environmental design research.
- Encourage application of systems science research frameworks and methodologies to accelerate progress within green health environmental design research and practice.
- Increase rapid-response research funding to better enable evaluation of green health environmental design “natural experiments.”
- Develop cross-disciplinary core competencies for use within training programs that address green health environmental design and health promotion.
“The field of green health research is emerging, inspired by the desire to understand, create, and promote buildings that actively contribute to human health and well-being. This transformation is motivated by a growing body of scientific evidence and inspired by compelling new opportunities for data-driven, evidence-based practice.” said study co-author Chris Pyke, vice president of research at USGBC.
NCCOR’s fifth “goal area” is to work with non-health partners on synergistic initiatives that integrate childhood obesity priorities and promote trans-disciplinary research. This goal area has resulted in a special partnership and portfolio of innovative “green health” activities.
For more information about this article and to view an infographic related to the recommendations, visit NCCOR’s Green Health project webpage:http://nccor.org/projects/greenhealth.
Publications & Tools
Educating the student body: Taking physical activity and physical education to school
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report on May 23 recommending that schools provide opportunities for at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day for students and that physical education (P.E.) be designated a core subject. According to the report, only about half of U.S. children are getting at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity each day. Additionally, since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, 44 percent of school administrators report cutting significant time from physical education and recess, to increase time in reading and math. The IOM recommends “whole-of-school” approach where recess and school activities including sports are made accessible to all students to help achieve the 60-minutes-a-day recommendation for physical activity.
HBO’s Weight of the Nation™ series premieres new segment focused on children
In May 2012, HBO aired the four-part documentary series and public education initiative, “The Weight of the Nation™,” which explored the obesity epidemic in the United States. The project returned in May 2013 with a new series that focuses on the health of children and families called “The Weight of the Nation for Kids.” These three, half-hour films highlight young people actively improving the health of both themselves and their communities. At home, in school, and on the playground children are bombarded with choices, some healthier than others, and proper knowledge about nutrition and physical activity can help them make better selections. “The Weight of the Nation for Kids” shows young people taking an active role in their own health, as well as their families, while underscoring the importance of changing the environment to enable young people to make healthier decisions.
Salud America! releases set of materials exploring school snacks and Latino students
This summer, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Salud America! is releasing six packages of research materials—each with a research review, issue brief, video, and infographic—on different aspects of Latino childhood obesity issues and potential solutions. The first package, Healthier School Snacks, shows that Latino students are widely exposed to high-fat, high-sugar snacks and drinks sold in schools, but implementing stronger nutritional standards can yield healthier school snacks for this growing population at high risk of obesity.
Does better recess equal a better school day?
Safe and healthy recess has the potential to drive better student behavior, health, and learning, according to a new study from Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University. The randomized controlled trial of Playworks, which provides an active, healthy recess and play throughout the day in low-income elementary schools in 22 U.S. cities, found that the program reduced bullying, enhanced feelings of safety at school, increased vigorous physical activity during recess, and provided more time for classroom teaching. The findings are reported in four evaluation briefs.
- Findings from a Randomized Experiment of Playworks
- Effects on School Climate, Academic Learning, Student Social Skills, and Behavior
- Effects on Play, Physical Activity and Recess
- Playworks Implementation in 17 Schools from Six U.S. Cities
Childhood Obesity Research & News
Coca-Cola anti-obesity promises include no advertising to kids
May 8, 2013, Los Angeles Times
By Tiffany Hsu
Coca-Cola is making major promises to fight obesity — ceasing advertisements directed at kids, slapping calorie counts on all its packaging — as the soda giant stares down a rising tide of concern over sugar-stuffed beverages.
On May 8, as part of an initiative it’s calling “Coming Together,” the Atlanta company made a series of pledges that also involved offering low- or no-calorie drinks globally and backing of physical activity programs.
Coca-Cola said its new rules, announced in part to commemorate the brand’s 127th anniversary, will apply in more than 200 countries where it does business.
“Obesity is today’s most challenging health issue, affecting nearly every family and community across the globe,” said Chief Executive Muhtar Kent in a statement.
But most of May 8 oaths aren’t new.
Coca-Cola vowed back in 2009 to start labeling its packages with calorie details, a goal it now says it’s met. In October 2012, along with rivals such as PepsiCo, the company said it would also list nutritional information on U.S. vending machines.
And in advertisements launched earlier this year in the United States, Coca-Cola trotted out a parade of statistics about its various low- and zero-calorie products.
On May 8th, the company said that 19 of its 20 top brands fit the bill or feature alternatives that do. Executives also mentioned the mini-cans with smaller portions that debuted in 2001.
But the part of Coca-Cola’s pledge likely to get the most attention is the promise not to market to audiences where children under age 12 make up more than 35 percent.
The company has often said in the United States that it does not buy advertising directly targeting such demographics, but now appears to have expanded the policy globally. Commercials on television, radio, print, the Internet, and mobile phones are all affected.
It’s unclear what will become of the cuddly polar bear Coca-Cola likes to employ in its advertising.
But the company seems to be hustling to cover its bases in a year that has already seen an attempted ban on large sugary drinks by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, outcry over pop star Beyonce’s role as a Pepsi spokeswoman and concerns over the effects of caffeinated energy drinks on young consumers.
National parks dishing up healthier fare this summer
June 5, 2013, USA Today
By Nanci Hellmich
Visitors to the national parks this summer will not only get a taste of nature, they’ll get a taste of healthier fare at the parks’ restaurants, snack bars, and stores.
On June 5 the National Park Service announced a new nationwide plan — the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program — to make certain all its parks offer healthy food and beverage choices.
Some of the options: lentil soup, bison hot dogs, grass-fed beef, black-bean sliders, fish tacos, fresh tomato soup, and produce from local farms. About 23 million people buy meals in national parks each year.
“There’s no reason you should have to take a vacation from healthy eating when you’re on vacation,” says Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service. The prices of the foods at parks are set so they “are affordable to all Americans,” he says.
“Going outside to visit a national park has a lot of benefits,” Jarvis says. “You can spend time with your family. You can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can learn about nature and American history.
“You’re taking a walk to get a little exercise. You’re breathing fresh air, hearing the birds. It has physical and mental benefits. If you want to maximize that health benefit, we need to provide you an opportunity to eat healthy food.”
But if you want a treat, don’t despair: The parks will continue offering long-time favorites such as hot dogs and ice cream. There will be plenty of choices out there, Jarvis says.
The park service worked with the companies that supply foods and beverages to come up with new menu items and is encouraging companies to use locally grown and raised food when possible, Jarvis says.
Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says, “Often times the parks are isolated so there may not be many other food venues nearby. You think of going to a park as a healthier vacation because you are hiking and walking around. But if the food isn’t healthy, you may come back one or two pounds heavier and never lose it.”
Some parks have already worked on cleaning up their nutrition acts. Among the healthy options offered:
- Grand Canyon South Rim serves vegetarian options and serves vegetables or fruit as a substitute for french fries, including for kids’ meals. Among the healthy entrees: a garden vegetable pasta dish, healthy wraps made with veggies and lean protein, and entree salads such as a Mediterranean salad. “There has been a paradigm shift the past few years with people wanting and demanding healthier food and wanting to know where their food comes from,” says Matthew McTigue, executive chef at the Grand Canyon South Rim for Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which runs the concessions.
- Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana uses Montana-grown lentils and split peas in soups, salads, and some entrees, says Lu Harlow, Xanterra’s director of food and beverage at the park. She tries to buy locally as much as possible. “We buy lamb and grass-fed beef from several nearby ranches which use no growth hormones or antibiotics,” she says.
“One of our challenges in all of this is that when some people are on vacation, they want to splurge,” Harlow says. “Our goal is to provide healthy options that guests want to splurge on. We continue to offer hot dogs and hamburgers, but we are offering bison hot dogs and grass-fed beef burgers. Visitors can still find a french fry, at least for now. Before long they may all be baked fries.”
- The food served at the Statue of Liberty (which reopens again July 4 after cleanup from Superstorm Sandy) was revamped last year to provide healthier food to visitors. The park now offers 15 meals under 550 calories and several under 300 calories. “What we tried to do is take everyday foods and make them healthier,” says Brad Hill, president of Evelyn Hill Inc., a family business that provides the food and beverages for the park. “People expect a cheeseburger, but our quarter-pound cheeseburger has only 515 calories. It has low-fat cheese and oat-topped wheat bun, which tastes really great. We also offer a turkey burger and veggie burger.”
- Muir Woods in California has healthy sandwiches made with foods such as line-caught tuna and free-range, hormone-free chickens, says Keith Mahoney of Ortega National Parks, which does the concessions. Breads and muffins come from a nearby organic bakery. Muffins and scones cost about $2.95 to $4.95; sandwiches, $7.95; grilled cheese, $5.95; fresh tomato soup, $9.95.
- Yosemite National Park’s customers love fresh greens and tomatoes, says Robert Anderson, a chef who works for Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts. “You get in this grand surrounding, and you’re inspired to eat healthfully. You don’t want to eat chips; you want good fuel.”
BMI measuring in schools proves controversial issue
May 17, 2013, Chicago Tribune
By Julie Deardorff
Like other fourth-graders at Evanston’s King Laboratory School, Jennifer Dreller’s daughter was discreetly weighed during gym class as part of a routine fitness assessment. But the experience took a toll on the 10-year-old’s self-esteem, her mother recently told a panel of health experts.
“’How much do you weigh?’ became the question of the month among fourth-grade girls,” Dreller said during a forum on childhood obesity. “My daughter has cried many nights worrying about her weight since this experience.”
As the nation’s schools take an expanding role in the fight against obesity, they are increasingly flagging at-risk children with the help of an imperfect weight measure called the body mass index (BMI), a measurement calculated from weight and height.
But a backlash is building in Evanston, Ill. and across the country, sparked by concerns that BMI screening, which can be misleading, has no place in a school. Critics also argue that putting the sensitive information in the hands of self-conscious young students can cause bullying, trigger eating disorders, and intensify the pressure to diet.
Nevertheless, BMI remains the primary tool for classifying people as normal weight, overweight, and obese. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) specifically recommends school-based BMI screenings, in part because studies have found that many students don’t have access to a primary care doctor.
“Schools have a changing role in wellness because that’s where kids spend most of their waking time,” said pediatrician Lynn Gettleman Chehab, who runs the school clinic obesity program at Evanston Township High School. “It’s a crucial time for prevention, but many kids aren’t going to the doctor unless they’re sick.”
The screenings are meant to cast a wide net, Gettleman Chehab added, acknowledging that BMI is flawed. “But if it’s done in the right way, where privacy is protected and the child is not subject to embarrassment, it’s useful information,” she said.
Experts say obesity must be tackled at an early age, given the potential long-term consequences. Obese children have a 70 percent chance of becoming obese adults, putting them at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Childhood obesity rates nationwide more than doubled to 18 percent over the past three decades, federal data shows.
Simple, cheap, and noninvasive, BMI is a widely accepted surveillance tool used to track trends in a population. The formula indirectly measures excess body fat — the real culprit behind a variety of illnesses and medical conditions — and a high BMI level correlates with future health risks.
Yet it can be problematic as a screening tool for individuals. Age, sex, ethnicity, and muscle mass can influence the relationship between BMI and body fat. BMI also can’t distinguish between excess fat, muscle, or bone mass. As a result, athletes, muscular people, and racial and ethnic minorities with different body compositions can have a high BMI.
About half of children whose BMI labels them as overweight (but not obese) are healthy and have no increased risk of diabetes or other conditions, said Kristine Madsen, an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Public Health and the UC San Francisco Department of Pediatrics.
The IOM recommended in 2005 that all schools annually assess their students’ weight, height, and BMI and send the information to parents as part of a national strategy to address weight problems in children.
Today, at least 19 states require school-based BMI screening. Nine states recommend it alone or as part of a broader health-related fitness assessment such as FitnessGram, developed by the Cooper Institute and licensed to at least 65,000 schools nationwide.
In Illinois, BMI information is required on school entrance health exam forms, along with data on vaccinations and dental and eye exams. But there’s no statewide BMI monitoring system, and obesity data is sparse, according to the state public health department. At least 1,000 Illinois schools have incorporated the FitnessGram program, including Evanston’s District 65.
Schools use and share BMI data in different ways. Some notify parents of the results; others don’t. In 2011, parents complained when Hawthorne Elementary School in Elmhurst planned to include BMI results as part of a physical fitness grade. The school hastily dropped the idea; today the information is reported to the state but not given to individual students. Chicago Public Schools also reports only aggregated information.
Ideally, BMI scores are used to help correct any misperceptions about weight and to motivate parents to follow up with a doctor. Multiple studies have found that parents of overweight or obese children often fail to perceive that their children have a problem.
It’s not clear, however, whether sending the information home does any good. In the largest study to look at the issue, Madsen and her team found no difference in pediatric obesity between children in California whose parents who had received letters and those whose parents had not.
When the researchers dug deeper, they found that the letters sent home were poorly designed, too complicated and lacked context, Madsen said. “I think that we just do not know what works,” she said.
Parents also need information on how to respond appropriately to the BMI scores.
“We want to correct parents’ perceptions, but what are parents going to do with that information?” said Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. “My fear is that their intentions will be good, but they may inadvertently do something that will be harmful.”
Some groups that work to raise awareness about eating disorders oppose mandatory BMI reporting in schools over concerns that it may trigger disordered eating in vulnerable students. Experts, however, say that if one follows the other, it is likely a coincidence of timing, as eating disorders typically develop during the preteen years or adolescence.
Moreover, obesity is the bigger problem, said Goutham Rao, clinical associate professor at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and vice chair of the American Heart Association’s Obesity Committee. “The proportion of children with eating disorders compared to those with overweight or obesity is very small,” he said.
Rao said he frequently works with adolescent girls who want to be thinner.
“You show them their BMI and it’s actually reassuring,” he said. “They may be prone to a distorted body image and it shows, ‘No, you’re not overweight.’ That’s more common than pushing people in the other direction.”
As more schools institute the screenings, their role has grown more controversial. In Massachusetts, the parental notification letters have been dubbed “fat letters.” After the student-athlete son of a politician received a letter classifying him as “obese,” legislation was introduced to prohibit the public health department from collecting data on students’ height, weight, and BMI. The bill has been referred to a committee.
In Evanston, a small group of parents has voiced concerns about everything from how the BMI scores are sent home to whether preteens are emotionally equipped to handle the information. Next month, the District 65 school board plans to discuss whether to continue BMI testing as part of FitnessGram, though parents have always been allowed to opt out of the program.
At participating schools, physical education teachers weigh students in the fall and spring. They aren’t shown or told the results, but “most want to know,” said P.E. teacher Denise Rossa, the district’s middle school department chair.
Once parents receive the BMI number along with other fitness scores — aerobic capacity, muscle strength, muscle endurance, and flexibility — students can access the information via computer unless their parents opt out. In class, students discuss what BMI measures, why it’s done and its shortcomings, Rossa said.
“We want our students to understand that healthy comes in all shapes and sizes and that weight alone is just a number,” she said.
Michele Hays, who has a son at Chute Middle School, doesn’t see the value of BMI screening outside a medical environment, especially since nutrition and fitness information is covered in class. “The only function of showing kids their BMI scores is to personalize the information, which strikes me as being dangerously close to shaming,” she said. Hays also has a problem with sending the scores home to parents “unless we are also providing adequate information on what to do with the result and how to access health care,” she said.
Other parents say the scores can motivate children and help them set goals.
“My kids used the yearly FitnessGram results to push themselves to work harder and improve and/or beat their scores the next year,” said Jill Moore, whose son, Alex, attends Chute.
Moore, a nurse, agrees that students disclose numbers to one another, leaving some feeling bad. But she added, “I think this type of comparing is inevitable at the middle school level.”
At the school district’s recent community forum on obesity, Rao stressed that parents should send children a consistent message: Develop healthy habits. “Never mention the word ‘obese’ or ‘overweight’ to your child,” he said. “Target the behavior and take the stigma of weight and body image completely out of the equation.”
Dreller, who attended the meeting hoping to learn more about BMI, remains unconvinced that the measure should be calculated at school. Her daughter, one of the tallest girls in the class, weighed more than most of the others. That’s something the 10-year-old hasn’t forgotten.
“Aren’t we trying to teach good body image and high self-esteem to our girls?” she asked. “Body image is so much a part of who a person is that it seems like we’re regressing.”
New school lunches get poor reviews
May 19, 2013, Boston Globe
By Dave Eisenstadter
Conor Curran said chocolate chip cookies used to be among the most popular snacks at Dedham High School [located outside of Boston].
But Curran and his friends agreed that the ones available this year, made with whole grain as required by the state’s new school nutrition law, are among the worst items the school offers.
“We once lived in a golden age of cookies; now we’re suffering through a dystopian world,” said Curran, a senior. “It was the rise and fall of cookies.”
Cookies are just the tip of the iceberg. Though officials say that students will eventually adjust to their new choices, school budgets have taken a hit because of lost revenue from snack items such as cookies and added expenses resulting from the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which regulates school lunches.
The state and federal laws took effect last fall, and officials are projecting a $58,000 deficit for the Dedham food service department this school year. In April, the School Committee approved price hikes for school lunches throughout the district. At the high school, the price will rise to $3.50 from $2.75.
The federal law aims to bring more nutritious food into public schools to attack both childhood obesity and hunger. The Massachusetts law, meanwhile, covers foods that aren’t on the lunch plate, such as a la carte items, snacks from vending machines, and concession stands. Overall, the laws require a wider selection of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and a reduction in calories, sodium, and trans fats.
Now, districts across the Commonwealth are feeling the effects. Dedham Food Service Director Jeanne Johnson put together a list of 25 nearby districts, including Canton, Needham, Norwood, and Stoughton that also are losing money.
Districts that have been the most successful with the new lunch regulations started early, according to Kathleen Millett, executive director of the Office of Nutrition, Health, and Safety in the state education department.
She said districts such as Somerville and Lawrence have been working to meet the regulations since the HealthierUS School Challenge, which began in 2010, and felt less of a financial impact when the regulations were implemented this year, Millett said.
Around the country, the average daily participation in school lunch as of February had dropped about 3 percent in the past year, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
On the lunch trays in Dedham, federal regulations have resulted in smaller portions. Instead of the six-inch subs the cafeteria used to offer, four-inch sandwiches with less meat and cheese are served. Sean Birchall, a senior, said he usually buys two lunches to compensate.
“I’m starving every day,” Birchall said. “I play three sports and I’m dying.”
Unlike last year, when fruit and vegetable items were optional, students are now required to take a fruit and a vegetable item. Many put them on their plates in the lunch line, then slide them into the trash untouched at the end of the period.
That is unfortunate, said Johnson, because the cost of providing those vegetables in 1,500 meals is about $111 per day.
And that doesn’t include the loss of revenue from students like senior Megan Gallagher, who now brings her lunch from home.
“I used to get school lunch all the time; now I just don’t because it’s a waste of money,” she said.
To save money in her budget, Johnson has resorted to buying less-desirable options at times. Fresh fruit cups used to be popular and were offered each day, but Johnson switched to less-popular canned fruits three days a week so she could afford to buy kale, cauliflower florets, and different beans and legumes that are called for by the regulations and unfamiliar to students, she said.
“I hate to see the options decline for kids who were interested in taking them just to increase options for kids who don’t want to take them,” Johnson said.
For senior Marko Onyskiv, the saving grace is the Caesar salad. But now that’s available just once a week, while other salads are offered on other days.
“They force the vegetables on us,’’ said Onyskiv, but when the Caesar is available, “everyone gets this salad.”
Johnson also laments the complexity of the federal law. Vegetables are broken up into five subgroups — dark green, red/orange, legumes, starchy, and other — with each containing specific vegetables (sweet potatoes are in the red/orange category; yams are in the starchy category).
High school students must take a half a cup of each type of vegetable per week, except for the red/orange group, of which students must take 1¼ cups, and the “other” group, which has a requirement of ¾ cup, Johnson said.
Total vegetables per week must add up to five cups, in addition to the mandated five cups of fruit, according to Johnson.
In addition, high school students must have 10 to 12 ounces of grains per week and the same amount of meat or meat alternative, she said. The amounts are different for middle school and elementary school students.
“I describe it as a jigsaw puzzle of food,” Johnson said. To get the amounts correct, Johnson sometimes told her staff to cut off portions of wraps because the full wrap would exceed the maximum grain or protein standards.
In December, the grain and protein maximums were temporarily lifted, meaning sandwiches no longer had to be cut, but the standards may be reinstated in the 2014-2015 school year, according to Millett. Moreover, there are fewer snacks and drinks that students can buy this year, Johnson said.
These were some of the items students lamented losing most. “When we were freshmen, they sold lemonade and Coke, but they got rid of that,” said senior Elizabeth Wadman. “They used to have ice cream.” Johnson came before the School Committee in April to request price increases to make up for the losses. The increases were unanimously approved, and the new laws came under some criticism.
“I’m opposed to what I view as excessive regulation,” committee member Tom Ryan said before the vote. “I didn’t think what we were serving the children before was so catastrophic to their well-being.” Fellow committee member Jennifer Barsamian said last week that the time spent at school makes up a small portion of a student’s day.
“I’m glad they are trying to make the school lunches healthier and expose kids to different foods and vegetables, but I agree with what Tom Ryan was saying that night,” Barsamian said. “Schools are not making our kids obese.”
Instead of regulating lunches, Barsamian said, there should be more recess and gym.
Barsamian also said her children, a first-grader and a fourth-grader in the Dedham Public Schools, are adapting to some of the changes.
“They’ve been upset about the mac and cheese with broccoli inside of it — they use that example always — but they’ve come to like the bean and rice burrito, which they were saying ‘gross’ to earlier in the year,” Barsamian said.
As Dedham’s food service director for 13 years, Johnson said she knows from experience which items have been popular and which have not. Her staff is learning how to work with the new regulations.
“I believe the kids are resilient and they will adapt to the new options — every year they become more familiar with kale and corn salad and pea salad and bean salad,” Johnson said. “They will get closer to what we are offering, and we’ll get closer to what they want, and we’ll meet in the middle.”
That meeting may take a while. Asked if they liked any of the new foods, senior Brittney Almeida and her friends reflected before answering.
“The sugar cookies are good,” she said.