Federally funded school lunches — long derided as unhealthy or unappetizing — may have a role in curbing childhood obesity rates, after all … if they are done correctly.
Students who receive such lunches as part of the National School Lunch Program are often from disadvantaged backgrounds, and are at a higher risk of obesity as it is. Many health experts have asked whether these free lunches just make matters worse.
But the question cannot be answered, it seems, by simply comparing those who get free lunches with those who buy or pack their own, because of the confounding factors of poverty and strained home life.
So, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) decided to compare individual states, because state laws influence school menus. They looked at 5,000 eighth-grade students in 40 states.