Wednesday, November 12

Free Laughs

Oh Virgina Tech, you're so funny. Do you miss having your soul? Or are you happier having traded the pesky thing for money?

Researchers at Virginia Tech gave me my free laughs of the week when they announced that they've done a study and concluded that "lunches packed at home are generally not as nutritious as school lunches."

Don't get me wrong, people can and do pack all kinds of crappy things in lunches for their kids (have you seen the latest configurations of Lunchables?).

But every a cursory reading of the parameters of the study, as mentioned in the article, makes the design look flawed at best. For example:
  • "Researchers compared more than 750 school meals with more than 560 packed meals given to pre-K and kindergarten students in three schools, analyzing them for nutritional value over five days."
Pre-K and kindergarten students are exceptionally limited in what they can do themselves. Seriously, we're talking needing help opening milk cartons and applesauce cups here. Obviously, parents are going to prioritize packing things that hold well and are easy to get into and eat. Redoing this study with older students - or even with a broader range of ages - would almost certainly change the game.
  •  As a whole, the packed lunches overall had more calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, vitamin C and iron than school lunches. In addition, meals brought from home generally had less protein, sodium, fiber, vitamin A and calcium than school lunches, according to the study.
Shockingly, growing children require fat - lots of it! Vitamin C and iron are pretty important too. As for Vitamin A and calcium, which are supposedly higher in school-produced meals, they don't actually count if they're synthetic, which they are almost guaranteed to be in school food.
  • To analyze the nutritional content of the lunches, the researchers used the 2012-2013 National School Lunch Program Standards as a guide.
Really people? Why did you even waste your time? These standards are universally acknowledged to be terribly skewed and completely twisted. Celebrity Chef Jaime Oliver tried to make exactly the kind of whole foods, healthy, balanced meal you'd make for your own family and couldn't serve it as planned in an American school because it didn't fit the National School Lunch Program Standards. (If I can find the link, I'll come back and add it here, because it's totally worth watching his utter frustration and disgust.)

And, finally the piece de resistance: 
  • "...actual consumption wasn't measured, only observations about the contents of the lunches. "
Pretty sure that one speaks for itself.

So thank you, Virginia Tech, for my laughs my week - this study was a really good joke!

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