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    Archive for the ‘schools’ Category

    Some Musings on School Soda Bans

    This week, various media outlets reported on a study which concluded that school soda bans are ineffective; or, as as The Chicago Tribute put it — ‘School Soda Bans Don’t Cut Kids’ Consumption’. This not only frames the issue incorrectly, but also blames “ineffective bans” for problems they were never intended to correct.

    Continue Reading »


    In The News: Britain Opens Pandora’s Box

    Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom_3x5Today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports on the latest — and mega controversial — developments in Britain’s public schools: “[elementary] school [students] identified as overweight will automatically be offered a place on a state-funded diet and exercise scheme.”

    Here’s how it will work:

    • At the beginning of this school year, all elementary school students will be weighed
    • Weights will also be recorded at the end of the school year
    • At that time, parents will receive a report that identifies their child(ren) as underweight, healthy, overweight, or very overweight
    • Children who do not fall into the “healthy” category will be offered state-funded weight management services for the summer.  Those identified as ‘very overweight’ will also be referred to pediatricians

    Some parent associations are up in arms, claiming that branding children as overweight will encourage bullying, and that this measure is akin to a dictatorship.  I say — bollocks!

    How, exactly, does this measure encourage bullying?  Results are confidential and only shared with parents, not the student body.

    The unfortunate truth is that if a child is obese, he or she is probably already a target of mean-spirited harassment by classmates.  An official — and confidential — classification is a moot point.

    In fact, teachers could take advantage of this new policy to address body image issues in the classroom.

    In middle school, I was relentlessly made fun of by my gym class for being a horrible basketball and baseball player (whenever I see a baseball glove I twitch and mentally take myself to a “happy place”), but that doesn’t mean I would support the removal of physical education from school curricula.

    As for cries of “dictatorship”?  Unwarranted.  Parents are being offered — not forced to send their children to — weight management services.

    I have spoken to so many parents of overweight children who feel so impotent and helpless and, from what they’ve told me, would be thrilled to receive this type of support and help from schools.

    I think the real issue here is that parents don’t want to hear that their children are overweight because they somehow perceive that as a critique of their parenting skills.  This is not an “identify the bad parents” initiative!


    In The News: Sweet Detention

    An article in yesterday’s New York Times reports on the nutritional metamorphosis taking place in several hundred school districts across the country.

    A California law that passed in 2005 and went into effect last July set “strict new state nutrition standards for public schools, [requiring] that snacks sold during the school day [including at bake sales] 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.”

    Some schools are taking this further and applying it to birthday celebrations in the classroom.

    “In Guilford, CT, the school district’s health advisory committee has decided that birthday parties belong at home. At A. W. Cox Elementary, birthdays are celebrated with an extra 15 minutes of recess, special pencils or a “birthday book club” with commemorative inserts.”

    I applaud these innovative concepts.

    While there is nothing wrong with celebrating a birthday at school with cupcakes, I find it critical to instill in children that it is possible to enjoy these moments without highly caloric food.

    After all, it is precisely this behavior that is later replicated in adulthood and can become problematic.

    I am consistently surprised by the amount of people who will eat a slice of cake handed to them at an office birthday celebration even if they are not hungry or in the mood for cake.

    It can be very difficult to undo the “you always eat a slice of cake at a birthday party” reflex when it is perpetuated several times a year from preschool on.

    At the same time, a few of the images and anecdotes shared in this story worry me.

    First, the mention that “Piedmont High School [in Piedmont, CA] banned homemade brownies and cookies” from bake sales.

    Does this mean commercial varieties are allowed? If so, what is the logic behind that? I would much rather have a cookie simply made with flour, butter, sugar, and vanilla than one out of a box listing 20 ingredients.

    If the lack of information about included ingredients (and amounts) is troublesome, why not cut up each brownie square into two triangular halves and sell them that way?

    Lastly, am I supposed to believe that whatever else is being sold at these bake sales is somehow healthier than a brownie or a cookie? A lemon square or oatmeal raisin cookie can have just as many calories, sugar, and saturated fat.

    Then we have a photograph of teacher Anna X. L. Wong of Berkeley, CA, reviewing “good foods” versus “bad foods” with her kindergarteners.

    In the photograph, we can see that candy, cake, bubblegum, ice cream, and soda fall in the “bad” category, while a variety of fruits and vegetables make the “good” column.

    I am not arguing that candy, ice cream, and soda are healthy (although I do think that labeling bubblegum as bad is ridiculous), but I really hate the overly simplistic good food/bad food dichotomy.

    I find that it often leads to obsessive thinking, guilt, and can inaccurately be perceived as “foods that should never be eaten.”

    I would find it much more helpful if kids learned about foods from a consumption model (“foods to eat every day/once a week/only occassionally.”)

    What confuses me most is that many of these schools so intent on banning homemade baked goods for “health concerns” still allow sugary sports drinks and vitamin-enhanced drinks (which often contain just as much sugar as soda) to be stocked in their vending machines.

    I guess it’s hard to turn down those companies when they offer to build you a football field, huh?

    Very interested in hearing your thoughts.


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