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School Lunches and Obesity

Problem Statement

There has been recently a significant rise in childhood obesity. There are various factors that have influenced the occurrence of this trend. The ineffectiveness of the counter measures that have been implemented thus far has fashioned an environment that is conducive for the perpetuation of child obesity. According to Grossman & Mocan (2011), the ineffectiveness of the programs and initiatives that have been proposed by various regulatory bodies may be blamed on insufficient research. Pearce & Witten (2010) argues that the need for greater research stems from the need to better inform the implemented strategies. Too much focus has been directed towards corporate advertisements and inactivity, much to the detriment of a focus on school lunch programs (Barbour, 2011). Addressing the perpetuation of obesity will require a wholesome approach that covers all the potential instigators of child obesity. Undertaking a research on the effect of school lunch program will enable various regulators to better advice on the dietary plan that is employed. After conducting the current research, the findings will assist in the development of a meal plan that would be best suited for school feeding programs.

Addressing the problem of child obesity will aid in reducing its rise in the nation. According to Murphy (2012), the rate of child obesity has been on the rise. The core rationale for this may be attributed to flawed marketing undertakings and the lack of requirements for physical activities in education curriculum. The flawed marketing undertakings that have been referenced herein are in reference to the targeted product promotion initiatives by the food chains (Haerens, 2012). So, one of the factors that has led to an increase in child obesity is the lack of physical education in the contemporary education curriculum (Bouchard & Katzmarzyk, 2010). With this being said, some measures have been implemented to counter the effects of these two features. However, the rate of child obesity in the contemporary setting can attest to the need for additional measures to counter the perpetuation of child obesity. Addressing this problem will certainly create better understanding of the dynamics associated with child obesity.

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Purpose

The purpose of the current study is to understand the current status of school lunches, and their contribution to the reduction of obesity among children. It is an important research topic, due to the increased rate of child mortality throughout the world. In order to address the research topic, a qualitative research will be conducted, and it will provide ample information that will enable one to make a proper conclusion on the best approach to be applied in the development of a school feeding program. It will be a program, the main motive of which will be the reduction of obesity among children.

Significance

The above described study will add the current information regarding the status of the school feeding programs, and obesity among children to the already available literature. In the past, studies have focused on various issues of obesity among children, as well as, school feeding programs, but little has been done in regard to how the feeding programs can be used in order to reduce obesity among children. It is ostensible that thoughtfulness is required regarding prevalence of obesity among children. Prevention strategies have to be implemented in order to safeguard the future generations. However, this can only be done through conducting research on the already existing relationships between children and their eating habits. School lunches and other school feeding programs have been in existence for a long time now. Nonetheless, the continued increase in the number of obese children indicates that these programs are not working effectively enough to reduce the obesity among children. In addition to the common health problems associated with obesity, such as, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes, obese children also face social and emotional problems (Seth & Sharma, 2013). There is stigma associated with obesity, and such children become victims of discrimination, stereotyping, bullying, and teasing (Seth & Sharma, 2013). The study carries a big significance not only in regard to the contribution to literature, but also in regard to the improvement of children’s lives.

Background

A number of articles that provide information regarding childhood obesity and school feeding or lunches, as well as, other issues, related to child obesity are described below:

  1. Briefel, Wilson & Gleason (2009), Hastert, Just & Babey (2009), and Taylor, Holben, Shirk, & Wang (2009) provided information on the consumption of food among individuals who consume school lunches, and make comparisons to children who eat lunches at home. They also compare the dietary behavior of adolescents, and the rates of obesity and central adiposity among adolescents who take school breakfast and lunch programs.
  2. Magryta (2009), Peters (2010), and Woo & Taveras (2014) offered information on the strategies being applied to combat obesity among children through school the improvement of lunch and feeding programs. They focus on the protection of children against obesity by making sure that the lunches offered through the school feeding programs contain the required nutrients, and do not have ingredients that cause obesity.
  3. Kuhle, Kirk, Ohinmaa, Urschitz, & Veugelers (2012) provided information on the relationship that child obesity has to different ailments, including otitis media, which is the second common ailment among children, and it is the infection of the middle ear.
  4. Liou, Yang, Wang, & Huang (2015) offered results from a two-year national wide prospective study that focused on school lunch, policy, and environment as determinants of obesity prevention among children. They agree that besides school lunches, other factors should also be taken into consideration to prevent obesity.
  5. Hanks, Just & Wansink (2013) offered details on how smarter lunchrooms could be used to address the guidelines provided for the school lunchrooms, in relation to child obesity. The aim of the article was to offer practical solutions on how school lunches would be transformed to offer healthy food for children and reduce obesity.
  6. Hurley, Cross, & Hughes (2011) conducted a systematic review of receptive model of feeding and child obesity in developed or high income nations. It is a model that would promote the reduction of obesity among children.
  7. Story, Nanney, & Schwartz (2009) provided information on how schools can prevent obesity. They focused on the creation of school environments and guidelines that would promote physical activity and healthy eating habits. In addition, there was the focus on a model that would enable parents to assist in the prevention of child obesity through family lifestyles and parenting.

Framework

The current study’s theoretical framework is based on the energy imbalance theory (EIT), which was developed by Hill, Wyatt, & Peters (2012), describing the relationship among the intake of energy in the body, its utilization, and storage of the energy. It indicates that in order to control and prevent obesity, it is required that modification is done on both energy intake and utilization, and the focus should never be on only one of the two factors. As such, the required energy should be input into the body, and this should be enough for the body to utilize. As such, a balance in the amount of energy that children receive through food, and its utilization by their bodies should be a feasible approach in obesity prevention. In a situation where there is more energy intake through eating fat, carbohydrates and protein, and less expenditure of energy through exercising and other physical activities, the body will store up the energy as body fat, which will lead to obesity. The current study aims at understanding the effectiveness of school lunches in the reduction of obesity among children.

The conceptual framework of the study revolves around a number of issues raised by Adair, Ng & Popkin (2012), who attribute the increase in the obesity levels to a number of factors. These factors include the changes that have occurred in the production of edible oils that have resulted in cheap vegetable oils, which are, consequently, used in the fast food industry, resulting in accessibility of the fast foods due to their low cost. Additionally, technological advancement has led to reduced physical activities, as children, and adults mainly engage in in-doors activities that lead to reduced consumption of energy. As a result, there is reduced consumption of energy, whereas the intake is high. Consequently, an imbalance develops, leading to obesity (Adair, Popkin & Ng, 2012).

Research Questions

  • RQ1: Is there a correlation between lunches offered in schools, and rising level of obesity among children?
  • RQ2: What are the positive and negative impacts of school lunch programs on the obesity among children?
  • RQ3: Is there a difference in the obesity levels among children who participate in school feeding programs and those who do not?
  • RQ4: How can school lunch program be set-up in order to promote the reduction of the increasing rate of obesity among school children?

Nature of the Study

The research approach that will be employed is a qualitative research approach. The dynamics of the aforementioned approach will ensure that a wholesome understanding of the problem is generated. A qualitative approach will investigate on the insight that can be generated by the secondary literature, while taking into account the insights that have been held by experts on the issue. When both of these sources of data are used to inform on the proposed research undertaking, wholesome awareness will be fashioned. As it has been explained herein, the most effective research approach that will be employed is one that couples two research designs. The first design is a qualitative design, which will use secondary data. The understanding is that the knowledge required to answer the proposed research question is contained in secondary data. However, what is lacking, is a consolidation of the secondary data. The second approach entails undertaking first hand research on diet experts. The tenets of the qualitative research design will be used in sourcing data from the experts. The use of this mixed research design will ensure that the proposed research can avail data that can be used to inform on the policies undertaken by various regulatory bodies.

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