By DAWN BRANDVOLD-GRAY
Just when I thought it wasn’t possible to get more ridiculously partisan, last week a House committee voted for a Republican-backed measure that would allow school districts to temporarily opt out of First Lady Michelle Obama’s pet project Р childhood nutrition. That’s according to the Washington Post. See washingtonpost.com.
These nutrition standards set mandates to reduce sodium and increase whole grains and servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. Throw in a little big money lobbying to cap my disgust.
The Washington Post reports that this dispute gives an illustration of ways special interests can assert power. In this case, food companies forged an alliance with a key lobbying group, the School Nutrition Association, and pushed it to shift its position from publicly supporting the Obama-backed standards to pressing Congress for relief.
It’s less about encouraging kids to eat well, and more about the profits to be made by large food companies that sell frozen pizza, french fries, and other prepared high-fat, high-sodium, high-cholesterol food to schools.
With heart disease as the number one cause of death and obesity on the rise, healthy eating habits should be as important to learn as myriad other lifestyle topics tackled in school. Don’t say you are “pro-life” if you are against providing healthy school lunches and encouraging nutritious fare that can improve lives.
I fully support my tax dollars subsidizing healthier school lunches. In fact, if I wish I could “opt out” of support for schools who continue to serve unhealthy lunches because it is “too hard” to get kids to eat right.
Like my wife, I applaud Michelle Obama’s emphasis on proper nutrition. It’s ironic that as more adults (including aging Baby Boomers like myself) are finding time for exercise and striving for better diets, medical experts are worried about obesity in children.
However, I also understand the push-back school cafeteria workers have with proposed federal requirements. Sure, children should eat better, but school officials can’t force healthy food down a kid’s throat. It’s costly to waste food, and I don’t see a whole lot of broccoli being purchased from the vending machines.
The first lady’s efforts to improve child health should not be toppled by political partisanship. But at the same time, the child obesity problem Р some would call it an epidemic Р stretches beyond diets.
Children today don’t play outside as much as they used to (and some parents are scared to let their kiddies out the door without an adult’s watchful eye). The playground has been replaced too often by video games.
The president of the outdoor-oriented Conservation Alliance bemoaned the problem several years ago in his “state of the union” speech: one in five American children are clinically obese, three million American kids are being treated for depression, and a growing number of children under 9 years of age are being treated for high cholesterol. Repetitive motion disorder for using a computer for video games is a common medical ailment among youth.
Yes, children should eat better. They should also go “rough and tumble” outside, explore, and get their hands dirty.