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May 11, 2011 05:25 PM

In Texas schools, a picture's worth 1,000 calories

The war on obesity is heating up. An elementary school in San Antonio is beginning a program of taking before and after photos of students lunch trays to determine what students are actually ingesting. The photos are supposed to be accurate enough to allow calculation of calories consumed. Each student's parents must consent before that child may participate in the program.

Progress? Insanity? Let's hear it.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You think that's over the top? How about this?

    "An Illinois lawmaker says parents who have obese children should lose their state tax deduction. '
    “It’s the parents’ responsibility that have obese kids,” said state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga. “Take the tax deduction away for parents that have obese kids.”

    1. I can't tell from the article whether the parents will learn what each kid consumes, or what the kids as a group consume. The sentence about not photographing the kids confused me. Anyway, the former seems slightly useful, the latter not so much.

      4 Replies
      1. re: small h

        According to the article, the trays are matched to students, and parents will get regular reports on their child's eating habits. Aside from that, there is a lot of power in aggregate data. The school will have real data on what students will and will not eat - hopefully these data will help sway the USDA to adjust the meal requirements for school lunches to better reflect the needs and tastes of children.

        1. re: mpjmph

          Thanks, I read the piece again and I understand it better, now. I wonder, though, whether there isn't a more cost effective way to calculate this. A scale would be less accurate, but a lot cheaper. Maybe there's a middle ground.

          1. re: small h

            Personnel costs are generally the most expensive part of any research budget. A scale would require at least one full time employee weighing each component of the meal then entering the data. Video equipment and software are expensive upfront, but in the long run they cost much less than doing things by hand.

            1. re: mpjmph

              Noted. But what chowser says, below, makes a lot of sense to me. Seems like someone wrote a super-sexy proposal, and someone else took the bait.

      2. It's a lot of money, given the times we're in. Even if kids ate all their meals at school, that's only 5 meals out of 21, and then there are snacks, etc. that are brought from home/eaten at home. Parents who are interested can watch their children at home, teach good eating habits there and then, at some point, you have to trust that what you're teaching is sinking in. If it were available to me, I'd probably look for it a couple of times out of curiosity but not anything longer. Even if you find out that your kids are eating all junk at school, what more can you do other than teach them better, which you should be doing anyway without the knowledge.

        1. Give me a clipboard, pencil and $1.5M and I'll do it manually.

          Wow, what a waste of money.


          1. I think it's a great program. It's essentially consumer feedback - Find out what your customers like and adjust your menu accordingly. The big issue I have with all this health nonsense in school lunches is offering up healthy food that taste awful. So, let's see what everyone's actually eating and not turning it down or throwing into the bin.