Lunchroom Nutrition: What's Your School's Calorie Quotient?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Children obtain about one-third or more of their daily energy requirement from their school meals, and they should expend about 50 percent of their daily energy expenditure while at school. So how's your child's school doing?

"Comparing the amount and type of food available for your child to consume versus the opportunity for physical activity is a way to determine your school's Calorie Quotient (CQ)," says Joseph Cifelli, Ed.D., assistant professor of education at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "Increasingly, schools are implementing innovative programs focused on improving student nutrition. Often it's parents who initiate such changes."

Cifelli is helping schools assess their CQ in the Philadelphia area. He says, "It's a simple formula — lots of high saturated fat and high sugar foods like soda, pizza, hot dogs, fries and candy over minimal physical activity equals a HIGH potential to put more kids at risk for obesity."

According to Cifelli, curriculum must also be considered. "It's ironic," he explains, "School officials want higher achievement on standardized tests so they minimize non-tested disciplines like science, health and physical education, while study after study links nutrition and physical activity with school performance."

Cifelli's research shows that kids who have a well-founded understanding of food energy are able to make more healthy food choices. In addition to checking out the teachers on Back-to-School night, Cifelli recommends that parents also check out their school's CQ.

Cifelli can be reached at 610-660-3482, by e-mail at, or by contacting the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

Expand this section