Calorie Cameras in Elementary School Cafeterias…Too Far?


When I first heard talk of this calorie camera business, my initial thought was, “I need to get my hands on one of those.” But then I learned that they’re actually being used on elementary school lunch trays, and it quickly went from a cool, new, weight loss tool to another scary device to perpetuate negative body image.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I was in elementary school, calorie counting was a totally foreign concept to me. My mom packed me a balanced lunch everyday, there was some bartering for snacks and deserts in the lunchroom and then I went about my day as a normal 10-year-old. It wasn’t until around tenth grade that I even became aware of “the evil calorie,” an awareness that turned into an obsession around the twelth grade, and even though I love food, calorie counting will now be something I do for the rest of my life.

But at least I got the chance to delay all of this and actually enjoy my elementary school years without the burden of having to monitor everything I put into my mouth. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for kids growing up now, in a world filled with things like Skechers Shape-Ups for girls and Calorie Cameras in the cafeteria.

Right now, the cameras are still in an experimental phase, being implemented at five Texas elementary schools. Each cafeteria tray is embedded with a barcode, which is snapped by the camera before and after the meal to calculate how much each student ate. The only saving grace is that the students aren’t given the results directly rather, the information will be used by the San Antonio-based Social & Health Research Centre, parents and nutritionists in an effort to cut down on childhood obesity.

While I agree that childhood obesity is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed, I can’t help but feel that something like this can easily cross into dangerous territory. Let’s give kids a little more credit just because they aren’t seeing the results (yet) doesn’t mean they aren’t fully aware of what’s going on. Knowing someone is watching their every move will surely lead them to think twice about choosing that plate of fries. So they know fries are “bad,” but what’s the point if they don’t know why fries are bad?

In order for successful, long term prevention of childhood obesity, children need to be educated about what they’re eating and how to make smart decisions. It seems a little non-sensical to spend $2.48 million watching kids eat junk when you could spend that money replacing the junk with healthier options and implementing nutrition classes. Maybe if that level of education were always around in schools, then so many women wouldn’t have that unhealthy, love/hate relationship with food that exists today.

Photo: istock