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Pundit Mailbag:
Measuring Childhood Obesity


Yes, I think school foodservice has an impact on the well being of our children and it is probably something that is not measurable. There is a lot of things in life you can’t measure, but you know it’s for the betterment of your lifestyle.

— Eli Hudson
Produce Specialist
Pate Dawson Company

Eli Hudson is responding to our piece regarding the questionable effectiveness of changing school lunch programs to decrease childhood obesity. To review the article, you can see it here.

I have no reason to doubt Mr. Hudson’s sincerity in wishing to resolve this problem, and his claim that there are certain things in life that can’t be measured is certainly true.

But it is not true about this issue. Whether a change in school lunch programs reduces childhood obesity is pretty easy to research. You have two groups of schools with comparable demographics. You alter the menu in the manner based on what you are looking to test, such as whether a salad bar added will have an impact. If we stop selling soda in the vending machines, will that have an impact? Whatever you look to study.

Then you weigh the kids and do BMI statistics both before you start and at set intervals throughout the study. Then you find out if it had an impact.

Note that, inherently, the study may not require a caloric change in the lunch program or the soda consumption and the study may still cause the change in the weight or the BMI. As Mr. Hudson indicates, changes can come through kids who ‘take that message home and eat better at home.’

But if the study shows no difference between the control group and the group exposed to the policy change, then we have no reason to implement the program.

Analyzing these things is very important. Otherwise, every Tom, Dick and Harry with a harebrained scheme will lay claim to Federal Funds to change dietary programs in schools.

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