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Lunchroom cameras watch what students eat

by Aimee Keenan-Greene

It was widely reported this week that schools in Texas are taking an unusual step in the fight against childhood obesity.

With funding from the US Department of Agriculture, lunchroom cameras will be part of a project in 5 elementary schools to research what kids choose, consume, and leave behind in the cafeteria in an effort to improve healthy eating habits for those who brown bag it, and those who buy a hot lunch.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture  recently raised the nutrition standards for National School Lunch and School Breakfast meal programs for the first time in fifteen years, making critical changes to school meals this fall to help improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs everyday.

The changes add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals.  The recommendations are based on the October 2009 report by the National Academies' Institute of Medicine (IOM),  School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. Schools would also be required to limit the levels of saturated fat, sodium, calories, and trans fats in meals.

"The new nutrition standards for school meals represent an enormous improvement over the status quo. Capping calories, limiting French fries, and reducing the salt will all help America's school children avoid unnecessary weight gain and diet-related diseases. And requiring school lunches to contain more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will teach kids healthy eating habits that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. The recently passed child nutrition reauthorization law will provide schools with more model menus and recipes, advice, and funding to implement these rules once they're finalized and adopted.", said Margo G. Wootan, Nutrition Policy Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The school menu improvements come as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed into law by President Barack Obama last December. It is an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation says U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.