Saturday, December 20, 2008

Removing junk foods from schools does not eliminate the problem

There has been some blog coverage and some media coverage of the ten years of "no sugar" at Browns Mill Elementary School, yet that's really a misnomer because the school is not only not sugar free but there was much more to some of the changes that happened there than just focusing on removing junk food and no longer allowing birthday cupcakes, no cookies or ice cream.

While the CNN article points out:

The children in the cafeteria drink low-fat milk, shovel corn kernels on their sporks and munch on tuna sandwiches on wheat.

Most wheat breads contain sugar and corn? Corn while an enjoyable veggie for most kids does not contain a great deal of nutrients and the tuna? Even the federal government recommends young children not eat tuna on a frequent basis due to the mercury. It's interesting no one at CNN broached that topic. I'd also point out that some would suggest a soy milk would be preferable to low-fat cow's milk, from both a protein and a health factor.

It is important to teach healthy eating but it also does not have to be done in a way to make refined sugar seem the enemy, you can actually get more sugar from juices and other food items than making a mere cookie seem like it's something that children should not eat. To create a larger impact it also has to be encouraged at home and include exercise.

That is one part of what happens at this elementary school that is different from many, there is an actual hour long exercise period, that probably has done more to decrease behavior problems. Most elementary children both at home and at school have very limited access to physical activity. Some do not even get recess and do not have daily gym classes.

We can pretend that sugar and junk food is the enemy but the reality it is our lifestyles that have changed that have also increased the pounds, children who during my childhood days played outside for hours, running, jumping, bike riding, playing games now sit parked in front of a television or a computer for hours. While I think it's great that the ten years of this social experiment has gotten media coverage, I'd personally find it more beneficial if the focus was less on the "sugar free" claim and more on the actual real life changes as well as more information on the disciplinary numbers. All that is reported is the drop during the first six months, with new students coming in each year, it'd be interesting to learn how new students and each new kindergarten class responded to the changes in diet and exercise.

I'd also be interested in the cost factors, since that's not even mentioned. How much more does it cost per student lunch, does the school receive any additional governmental aid to meet it's food budget? Cost is a factor that most school districts struggle with in trying to provide student meals. A good majority of them do not have a large number of students that are served breakfast either, at Browns Mill Elementary School students are served both breakfast and lunch.


Robin said...

I think the food might have some to do with it. But physical activity has more to do with it.

Back in the dark ages when I was in school, the school I went to actaully had a kitchen in the cafeteria. I seem to remember that the cafeteria staff actually cooked some of the food. At my kids' school, everything is prepackaged and tossed into a microwave. I was really surprised to find out that TPS schools don't have kitchens and that the kids are basically served TV dinners.

Cyberseaer said...

This is why I can't post on most of your blogs, Lisa. You basicly say what I want to.

Anyway, when I was in elementary school, during those anicent days of the Nixon-Ford-Carter years (Those wacky times), I had gym class every school day and we had to bring our own lunches. I still was a fat kid, because I always could have what I wanted to eat at home. Not good. If my parents restricted what I could eat and not give in to my demands of crappy food, then I think I would have been healthier. I still played with friends and all, but the home life should have been a bit more displined. So that old cliche that says it all starts with the home is correct.

Since I found out I was a diabetic, we have had healthier meals, less snacks at home, and healither lunches for my kids to bring to school. Both children are much fitter than I was at their ages. So this failed school experiment shows that government programs aren't always the answer. Education of issues and home reenforcement are the ways for healthier and more productive poeple to be prodeuced in our society.