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A picture is worth a thousand words

Posted on 05/31/2011

Have you ever heard the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words"? Well, in one Texas town, San Antonio, schoolchildren are about to say, "Cheese!" when they sit down to eat lunch.  Actually, their lunch trays will be mugging for the cameras, not the actual students!

The school district is taking photos of children's trays at five San Antonio elementary schools as part of a $2 million research project as they dine in hopes of helping to reduce childhood obesity rates in this southern city. The city regularly ranks as one of the country's fattest cities in the nation. Schools selected for the study comprised mostly of poor, minority schools where obesity rates and type II diabetes risk are higher.

The project -- a first of its kind in the nation -- will take photos of students' lunch trays before they sit down to eat and later take a photo of the leftovers. A computer program will then analyze every piece of food on the plate, right down to how many ounces are left, and will calculate the number of calories each student eats.

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the study has received approval from nearly 90 percent of parents who approve of photographing every ounce of food their kids eat at lunch.

How it will work is simple. Each lunch tray will have a bar code, like a code on a product you buy at the store, which will identify a student. After the children load up their trays, a photograph will be taken of the tray at the end of the lunch line. When lunch is finished, the trays are returned to the kitchen and another photo is taken of the tray after lunch.

The computer program will analyze before and after photos to calculate calories consumed along with 128 other nutrients and will identify foods by measuring size, shape, color and density.

Researchers hope eating habits at home will change once parents receive the data for their children. The data will also be used to study what foods children are likely to choose and how much they are consuming.

What a novel idea! I believe many learn by sight better than verbally, so what a brilliant way to teach both parents and children through a photo of what kids are eating (and how much). If this shows promise, perhaps we'll see this type of program at other schools across the country.

What do you think? Is it too much oversight by our government, or a brilliant idea? I want to hear from you. Please leave me a comment here.

post-author

Seattle Sutton, BSN, RN

She made healthy eating her mission in life long before anyone else did, in hopes of helping her own obese father. A registered nurse by training and entrepreneur at heart, she lives, eats and breathes everything about healthy eating and helping to improve people’s eating habits and overall health. She enjoys never having to bother with grocery shopping, cooking and counting calories. Her favorite SSHE meal, although it’s hard to pick just one, is the Potato Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Sauce.

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