Should schools be tracking students’ weight?
You have undoubtedly read about the obesity problem in America. It includes adults as well as elementary, middle and high school students. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States is the fattest country in the world and is second behind Greece in the number of overweight kids.
First Lady Michelle Obama has taken this on as one of her pet causes over the past four years. We have written about her efforts and what some students have done in this regard. 17% or 12.5 million children between the ages of two and nineteen are obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 16% are overweight and at risk of becoming obese. The main culprit in this epidemic is our culture of fast-food that means high-fat content and low quality and nutrition coupled with minimal physical activity.
Since a good part of the day is spent in school, the question becomes “Are schools to blame for overweight students?” And if so, what can be done to change both the menus and the culture regarding healthy nutrition and exercise. In Illinois, the Naperville School District asks junior high school students to record their weight as part of the physical education program. Officials explain that weight is just one factor considered in assessing a student’s overall health. Strength, endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular health is also considered. Parents may opt out of the program.
Some parents object to recording their children’s weight claiming that emphasis should be placed on wellness, not weight. Weight becomes a talking point among students who are already pressured by peers and social media to value appearance and being thin over healthy. The program has spread to other states over the past ten years. Arkansas and Michigan, for example, have adopted similar weight tracking programs and body-mass report cards.
In December, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that limits on meats and grains in school meals were being lifted to allow more flexibility in developing nutritious menus for students.