Dream Camp: A Case Study for Improving School Lunches

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Karen Hebert
Essay Abstract: 
Between 1980 and 2010, the percentage of obese children aged 12 to 19 rose from 5% to 18%. This number will continue to rise unless something is done to improve the health of the nation’s children. 95% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 are enrolled in schools; therefore, cafeterias are a favorable setting in which to promote healthy eating and to attempt to reverse rising obesity rates. Dream Camp, a camp that operates for five weeks each summer in Philadelphia, PA, switched from meals outsourced to Aramark (an external food service provider) to meals cooked from scratch daily by chef Marc Vetri. Following this switch, Dream Camp saw a noticeable decrease in average fat and sugar content in the lunches. Additionally, a study conducted during summer 2012 showed there was a reduction in average BMI among a group of 108 campers over the course of the five-week program. While it is hard to attribute this reduction directly to the healthier meals, the result cannot be ignored. These successes should be seen as incentives for schools across the country to make changes to their lunch programs.