May 12 2011

Nanny Cams for Lunch Trays

Julie Gunlock

Sometimes I feel like I'm living on another planet...or the former U.S.S.R. 

The Huffington Post reports that one Texas school is installing lunch tray cameras to record what children eat and don't eat on at lunch.  

Health officials trying to reduce obesity and improve eating habits at five San Antonio elementary schools unveiled a $2 million 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 photos to identify every piece of food on the plate - right down to how many ounces are left in that lump of mashed potatoes - and calculates the number of calories each student scarfed down.

The project, funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, is the first of its kind in the nation. The cameras, about the size of pocket flashlights, point only toward the trays and don't photograph the students.  

TWO MILLION DOLLARS to analyze a kid's lunch tray? Oh boy...

I can analyze a kid's lunch tray for free.  In fact, I don't even have to see the tray.  Let's see...most kids will eat the yummy and less nutritious stuff and leave the vegetables and leafy greens. 

There, I did it!

The article also says that 90 percent of the school's parents have given permission to let the school photograph their child's lunch tray.  That's too bad.  Parents need to wake up to this type of intrusion.  Talking about the remaining 10 percent of unruly hold-outs, the school principal said: 

Mark Davis, the school's principal, said getting consent from parents hasn't been a problem. He suspects the small number of parents who withhold consent don't understand the project, perhaps thinking it limits what their child can eat at school.  

Or, Mr. Davis, maybe those parents want you to stick to TEACHING and get your nose out of their child's eating habits. 

What's next?  Should the USDA launch a pilot program where cameras are installed in these student's home kitchens in order to ensure parents are feeding these students correctly?

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