Thursday, August 25, 2005

Selling healthy food at schools not enough

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The state's lawmakers are all aghast at the latest state report on child obesity that says - gasp - kids are ballooning up even more than they were just a few years ago.

The San Francisco Chronicle carried a good story this morning that details it out.

  • Our kids are GROWING

  • So, why do lawmakers care if the kids are carrying around extra pounds? It's the potential health care costs down the road. If they're 20 pounds overweight at 12 years old, you can bet they will be closer to 40 pounds at 24. That all translates into diabetes and heart trouble and knee problems and, and, and...

    As is noted lightly in the story, selling kids bottles of Evian and giving them celery sticks at school for snacks will hardly fix anything. Just as we found with teaching honesty and ethics, schools are a tiny sliver of what kids see and deal with. Parents - and probably TV and other media - are a helluva lot more important.

    But the battle of bulge for kids, I think, has a lot more to do with the sedentary lifestyles that the parents and kids are comfortable with. Most public schools have cut out rigorous physical education. And beyond that, when children come home from school, they are unlikely to go grab a basketball and shoot a few hoops, or zoom around on their bicycles (though certainly some do).

    No, they are more likely to plop in front of the television - or computer - while they wait for mom and dad to come home with the extra-large-jumbo-cheese-pepperoni pizza for dinner and the free gallon of soda that comes with every double order of bread sticks.

    Even if the parents understand the need for the kids to, well, just run around, the constant drumbeat about how unsafe the world is just outside that door is hardly an incentive to doing what my mother did - boot us out the door (even in the snowstorm) to go play.

    The California Legislature can spin around and talk about the evils of Coca-Cola and Pizza Hut for the next 10 legislative sessions. But until MTV makes celery sticks seem sexy and parents trade soccer balls for the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, the pounds will probably just keep on packing on.

    In the meantime, pass the breadsticks, will you?

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