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Stranger than Fiction: School Lunch Technology Counts Student Calorie Intakes
posted by: Colin | May 13, 2011, 06:45 PM   

In light of the new focus on childhood obesity led by First Lady Michelle Obama and her "Let's Move" campaign, a new technology out of Texas that is designed to monitor a child's calorie intake while sitting in the lunch room has sparked a national debate.

Texas health officials trying to reduce childhood obesity and improve healthy eating habits at five San Antonio elementary schools unveiled a research project Wednesday that will photograph students' lunch trays before they sit down to eat and later take a snapshot of the leftovers. A computer program then analyzes the "before and after" photos to identify every piece of food on the plate and calculates the number of calories each student has eaten during their lunch period.

The new tech-cafeteria project is the first of its kind in the country and is being funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. The cameras, around the size of a flashlight, point only at trays of food and no students are photographed. Researchers say about 90 percent of parents gave permission to record the before and after lunch trays of their children.

After the photos are taken, analyzed and organized by student, parents will receive the data on their child. Researchers hope eating habits at home will change once moms and dads see what their kids are choosing in school and ultimately have an impact on their overall eating habits. The data will also be used to study what foods children are likely to choose in school and how much they're eating.

Project leaders hope it will lead to innovations in ordering food for school cafeterias and help a generation of children learn how to eat healthy by knowing exactly how many calories they are consuming.

While the goals of the project seem to be noble, some are claiming the study goes too far and could be construed as an invasion of privacy and another example of the "nanny state" impacting today's children. The cost of the project is currently set at $2 million.

What do you think of this program? Will it have a positive impact on children's' eating habits?
Comment below.

>> Originally posted by Alix on the AAE Blog.
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