Many organizations are attempting to help make school lunches healthier, including the Agatston Research Foundation (founded in 2004 by Dr. Arthur Agatston, the creator of the South Beach Diet).
But there is little evidence that the changes being made to the school lunch menus are actually helping obese children lose weight.
A study of more than 1,700 students over three years showed no change in the body-mass index of students whose schools had spent $20 million changing their menus, exercise programs and nutritional education.
Another study of more than 5,000 students had similar results. While there is a good deal of evidence that proper nutrition and exercise should help, the revisions made to school lunch menus seem to be having little effect.
In the case of the attempts made by the Agatston Foundation, some of the problems come from the fact that school kitchens are unequipped to prepare food in healthier ways (such as by making sweet-potato fries that are cut fresh, rather than commercially cut and frozen), or are simply unable to obtain healthier foods for reasons of price or bureaucracy. Some children, faced with a healthier menu, simply start bringing in unhealthy food from home.
Perhaps more importantly, many of the food substitutions are simply lower-fat versions of extremely unhealthy snack foods, which add little health value to the meal.