Years After Obama’s School Lunch Rules, Kids Fatter Than Ever

Thomas Phippen | Reporter

The Obama administration’s anti-obesity programs apparently didn’t work, as percentages of overweight and obese children continue to rise.

Despite CNN’s 2015 report to the contrary, obesity has steadily risen between 1999 and 2016, according to Pediatrics journal.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and federal student lunch regulations attempted to counteract the rising rates of severe and moderate obesity, but public health programs have clearly not worked, the authors wrote.

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“We have known about this epidemic of childhood obesity — and have been pouring research dollars and public health dollars into this problem — for at least 20 years,” Sarah Armstrong, associate pediatrics professor at Duke University who assisted in analyzing data for the study told NPR. “And despite that, we don’t seem to be making a big dent in the situation.”

The authors analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some categories for obesity are getting much worse in 2016 compared to the preceding years. “Children aged 2 to 5 years showed a sharp increase in obesity prevalence from 2015 to 2016 compared with the previous cycle,” the study says. The rate of older adolescent females rose from 36 to 41 percent in the same period.

In an editorial accompanying the recent research, Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital argued that while we have a good idea of what drives obesity, including “poor diet quality, excessive sedentary time, inadequate physical activity, stress, sleep deprivation, perinatal factors,” America lacks the strategies to address the issues.

“Ultimately, the burden of obesity-related disease is inextricably linked to income inequality,” Ludwig wrote, adding that policy proposals from the Trump administration threaten to increase the problem.

“Tax cut legislation pending in Congress, estimated to raise the budget deficit by more than $1 trillion, may increase pressure to cut the social safety net, including Medicaid and food assistance. These are short-sighted actions that would undermine public health and paradoxically increase federal obesity-related medical costs over the long term,” Ludwig wrote.

The authors concluded that “more resources are clearly necessary” for public health programs to address the rising obesity rates, but noted that previous programs may have had more of an impact in certain populations.

Researchers at Virginia Tech found that poorer children who ate free meals at school provided by the government were more likely to become overweight.

“While well-intentioned, these government funded school meal programs that are aimed at making kids healthy are in fact making participating students more at risk of being overweight,” Dr. Wen You, a professor at Virginia Tech who authored the research, said in a statement.

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