Texas Schools Install Calorie Counting Cameras

Posted: May 12, 2011 12:39 PM
1984 is here. Schools in San Antonio, Texas are installing cameras to photograph what children select to eat, and to track how much food is left at the end of the lunch period. This $2 million dollar project is coming to schools thanks to a Department of Agriculture grant:

A new $2 million project in San Antonio, Texas will see high-tech cameras installed in school cafeterias that will take photographs of the food children put on their lunch trays, and what they don’t finish eating. The lunch trays each also have a unique bar code attached to them to track eating activity.

Funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, the project will use digital imaging technology to analyse the before and after lunch photographs, identifying what food children ate, calculating a child’s calorie intake and the nutrients in their meal.

The one redeeming detail is that parents can decide whether their kids will participate. At least this isn't mandatory. At the same time, it is a clumsy response to a problem. For one thing, cafeteria food is less healthy than fast food at Burger King. If parents are (rightly) concerned about keeping their kids healthy, they are probably better off making them lunch at home (provided that schools continue to allow it).

Also, don't schools have better things to do? Given the notably poor performance of many public schools, it seems that it would make more sense to focus energy and tax dollars on improving classroom achievements than cameras and bar codes in the lunch room.

I agree with the intention-wanting to help parents help kids be healthy is great. But this might be the clumsiest, most Brave New World-esque way to do it.