2007 -2009 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Courtney J. Bowlin
Background: The incidence of childhood obesity is rising to dangerous and deadly heights in both Kentucky and the United States. This could partially be attributed to readily available fast food and marketing of snack foods aimed towards children. As a result, children are developing fatal health complications, such as Type II diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Children spend most of their time at school during the week and school lunch menus have a significant impact on food choices of children. In a given day, around 30 million children consume a school lunch nationwide. Kentucky is one of the states with the highest rates of obesity with 175,000 children ages 10 to 17 years old overweight or obese.
Objectives: To evaluate the food intake and physical activity patterns of children in Madison County and Fayette County, Kentucky.
Methods: The comparison for overweight factors in children living in two Kentucky counties (Madison and Fayette) was determined through survey and analysis of nutrient content of cafeteria lunch menus. The participants included 367 children from two public elementary schools from the 4th and 5th grade levels. The population included 189 males and 177 females who participated in a short survey based on knowledge of health food choices, favorite food preferences and after school activity involvement. A comparison of nutritional content of a school lunch menu from each school system was recorded and discussed against the national recommended dietary allowance for certain nutrients.
Results: It was found that 62.4% of the students surveyed eat cafeteria lunch compared to bringing a school lunch and 77.66% of the students surveyed thought that oatmeal is a healthier choice compared to grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, or spaghetti. From the nutrient analysis of school lunch menus it was observed that both schools had high sodium content, high saturated fat content and a low intake of fiber.
Conclusions: It is evident that more can be done to improve the health of children in central Kentucky. Further research is needed to better understand the factors contributing to the rising incidence of overweight and obesity in this population.