Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NYTimes article: "Are Schools Really to Blame for Poor Eating?" & my comments on the NYT blog

Below the published & pasted article are the comments I have made. Use the link to read all the comments.
November 10, 2008, 2:17 pm

Are Schools Really to Blame for Poor Eating?

Tara Parker-Pope, on HEALTH

Schools have been vilified for giving kids access to soda in vending machines. But new data suggests that school soft drink sales may not be an important factor in how much soda kids drink.

In the current issue of The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers compared soda consumption among nearly 500 students in Maine who attended seven schools over two school years. Four of the schools cut back on soft drink availability at the schools, while three of the schools made no changes.

Notably, all the students were drinking less soda by the end of the study period, but there were no meaningful differences in overall soft drink consumption among the different schools. The data suggest that curbing soft drink availability at school doesn’t result in meaningful changes in beverage consumption patterns. While there were no changes in overall soda consumption, there was a notable shift in diet soda drinking among girls. If the school cut back on soda availability, girls were less likely to drink diet soda, compared to girls in schools that made no changes.

The data are the latest to suggest that schools may not play as big of a role in kids’ poor eating habits as widely believed. Last year, The American Journal of Public Health published a provocative study showing that childhood weight problems often get worse in the summer, when kids are out of school.

Data from kindergarteners and first graders found that body mass index increased two to three times as fast in summer as during the regular school year. Minority children were especially vulnerable, as were children who were already overweight.

Notably, even children who were too thin and needed to gain weight appeared to have better eating habits during the school year. They actually gained more weight while in school and less in the summer.

Even so, much of the focus on childhood nutrition and obesity remains in the nation’s schools. Today, The Times reported that even the school bake sale is disappearing as districts impose strict standards on the food served on school grounds.

The old-fashioned school bake sale, once as American as apple pie, is fast becoming obsolete in California, a result of strict new state nutrition standards for public schools that regulate the types of food that can be sold to students. The guidelines were passed by lawmakers in 2005 and took effect in July 2007. They require that snacks sold during the school day contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat. "

My Comments, copied from the NYTimes blog:

Children don’t need to consume soda–and definitely not at school. The children most likely to spend their money on junk like soda are from families of the lowest income.
There are so many areas to work on, especially at school. Is soda to blame? Just as much as other sugar drinks like High Fructose Gatorade, or any other sugar+water=”sports drink”.
Another area of concern is the lack of good-tasting vegetables. I see a lot of elementary school children a hot dog and chocolate milk for lunch. Then a second hot dog. Getting into this habit of drinking a sugary drink with a highly processed food is something they are learning as a way of life.
*As a country we are either investing the students health creating lifetime habits–or we’re not. We need quality food for the school districts, so they at minimum exceed the federal USDA recommendations for % from fat and % sugar. Since Trans Fat is Toxic, eliminate added trans fat (not .5g per serving, actually avoid all products with part. hydrogenated oils).
*Dessert at lunch? We don’t need ice cream or desserts served at lunch. It is sending the wrong message.
*Sugary milk every day? How about no sweetened milks (chocolate, strawberry, etc) or at least limit serving them to maybe 2 days a week.
*Any grains served shall be Whole Grains: pasta, bread
An elementary school, http://www.icsd.k12.ny.us/bjm/ , is lucky enough to have its second year of being able to provide all the students with a morning fruit and an afternoon (mostly local, organic) vegetable snack. Many students are encouraged to at least take a “no thank you bite”. Continually re-introducing these veg. & variety of fruits to kids seems to work really well!
“Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today.” President-Elect Obama
When these children become adults let them know how the changes we are making today have had an impact in their health and in their lives.

— Daniel Keough


Is this a problem just for over-weight children, or their families? What about children who appear healthy but like so many young people in recent years are developing diabetes very early in life. Is it their problem?
This is a societal problem and it isn’t about focusing on what diseases we can prevent. Let’s focus on eating healthy and investing–in school, at home and elsewhere, in our health. Let’s invest in health-care, so that we don’t need to invest so much in the big business of sick-care in the not-so-distant future.
Parents and others: contact your schools, ask what you can do to support them in serving healthy foods. Volunteer! The health of these children is important, right?
*Please contact your
Representative http://www.house.gov/ and your
Senators at http://senate.gov/
Let them know we need to invest in our children’s health now with increase funding for nutrition education and in school foods which don’t contradict the lessons, but support them. Please act!

— Daniel Keough

1 comment:

Daniel said...

So are schools to blame? What is the goal behind attaching blame? Is there any benefit? Can change in foods provided and allowed, the culture of the school meals and snacks at school, have an effect on the health of children? Yes of course.Instead of pointing fingers, we can look at areas that need some help. What can we do to help in this crisis of the increasing number of children becoming obese and even being diagnosed with diabetes at very young ages?