Cameras in U.S. schools to record calorie counts

Thu May 12, 2011 10:36am EDT
 
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By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters Life!) - The next time children in some elementary schools in the state of Texas try to sneak extra french fries onto their tray in the cafeteria line, the eye in the sky will be watching them.

Using a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the schools in San Antonio are installing sophisticated cameras in the cafeteria line and trash area that read food bar codes embedded in the food trays.

"We're going to snap a picture of the food tray at the cashier and we will know what has been served," said Dr. Roberto Trevino of the San Antonio-based Social and Health Research Center, which is implementing the pilot program at five schools with high rates of childhood obesity and children living in poverty.

"When the child goes back to the disposal window, we're going to measure the leftover."

The goal of the program is to cut down on childhood obesity by providing parents and school nutrition specialists with information on what types of food elementary students are eating.

They will then be able to design healthy meals based on students' real-life habits, the center's spokeswoman Denise Jones said. Parents will also be able to use the information to help them design healthier meals at home.

"We will be able to determine whether current programs that are aimed at preventing obesity work, and whether they are really changing students' behavior," Trevino said.

Officials will receive information on the nutrient and calorie counts of the food children have actually consumed.   Continued...

 
<p>Students sit down to eat a healthy lunch at Marston Middle School in San Diego, California, March 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>