20:43 GMT19 February 2020
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    A Chinese kindergarten in Shanghai province has sparked controversy over its practice of differentiating the meals it serves according to children’s body weight.

    The school, located in Jiading district of Shanghai, has about 130 students. Those found to be overweight receive afternoon meals consisting of boiled vegetables, while meals for those found underweight consist of eggs, milk, meat balls and biscuits. The school also provides special meals for children with allergies, China Daily reported.

    Wang Yaqin, the head of the kindergarten, stated that the sole concern of the program is kids' health. The meals are suggested by dieticians and undergo nutritional analysis every day, Wang said. China has national standards for body weight, and children are categorized accordingly.

    There is no reason to be concerned that children are being undernourished, Wang stressed, as only afternoon meals are differentiated. Breakfast and lunch are the same for all children.

    According to Wang, school officials conducted extensive polls, interviewing parents, and found that most favored the idea, with parent responses suggesting that child malnutrition is not a concern.

    "Extra meals are different from formal meals. It is good for my overweight child to eat more vegetables," the Chinese media outlet quoted one parent saying.

    "It is impossible that our children are in malnutrition in the city life. We only worry about excess nutrition," said another.

    Support for the practice is not unanimous, though. Some parents are concerned that malnutrition can cause permanent developmental problems, and believe that overweight children should be treated by additional exercise.

    Gu Chuanling, a public health nutritionist and member of the Chinese Nutrition Society, supports the initiative, saying that children tend to eat too many unhealthy snacks, digesting too many unnecessary calories, leading to obesity.

    Liu Yeping, associate professor at the Counseling Center of Shanghai in Jiao Tong University, supports the practice, as long as it is carried out appropriately. Children should not suffer discrimination, but rather must be taught that food and exercise are necessary to make every body strong.

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    nutrition, obesity, school, food, Shanghai, China
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