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Stamford Parents Need to Check School Lunch Menus

STAMFORD, Conn. – With an estimated one-quarter of all kids 10 to 17 years old in Connecticut obese or overweight, Stamford nutritionist Cathy McCarthy urges parents to take a more active interest in what their children eat at school.

After examining the nutritional facts and monthly menu for the city’s public elementary schools, McCarthy said she has many questions about lunch options, including “How do they prepare the food? [and] Can they offer more organic options?” She specifically questioned whether the pizza offered every Friday was made fresh or frozen, and what type of hot dogs are used.

The Stamford resident and mother of two suggests parents question top officials with Chartwells , the company that provides breakfasts and lunches to students, about how meals can be made more nutritious. She said any additional cost for healthier food would be offset by savings on the medical bills that will come with the current options.

“Be a wise consumer,” she urged parents.

On average, American school children will eat more than 2,300 lunches over the course of their primary and secondary educations. If they are opting into school lunch programs, much of their long-term nutrition is dictated by the choices the school district provides.

Nationwide, approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese, according to data from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines childhood obesity as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. The CDC regards a child as overweight if his or her BMI falls between the 85th and 95th percentiles.

The National Conference of State Legislatures found that, in 2007, 25.7 percent of children aged 10-17 years in Connecticut qualified as overweight or obese. While this ranking is lower than many states, it still shakes out to more than one-quarter of the state's children in fifth through 12th grades having a medically diagnosable weight problem.

According to the CDC, overweight and obese kids are at increased risk of multiple health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and fatty liver disease. And this is to say nothing of the potential psychological effects of being an overweight child. Additionally, the CDC finds that children who are overweight are more likely to become overweight or obese adults.

"Mrs. Q." an employee of an urban school in the Midwest, offers more food for thought. She blogged through a year's worth of school lunches on Fed Up with Lunch . CNN covered her at the beginning of 2011 .

McCarthy runs Believe in You Health and Wellness . She will be hosting a “Healthy Lunch” seminar at the Darien/Norwalk YWCA on Oct. 13 at 9:30 a.m.

Do you know what your child is eating for lunch at school? Leave a comment below. You can contact reporter Anthony Buzzeo via email at tbuzzeo@TheDailyStamford.com .

Click here to vote for your favorite Stamford elementary school in Main Street Connect’s Better Schools Bonanza contest.

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