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April 25, 2007

Nutrition Guidelines for Schools

This morning, the Institute of Medicine released a report called Nutrition Standards for Food in Schools: Leading the Way Towards Healthier Youth. The document was commissioned by Congress in an effort to fight the obesity epidemic in our nation's youngsters. It's a set of guidelines for schools around foods which "compete" with school lunches. Think soda and chips from a vending machine or Slim Jims from a school store. None of this is law...it's just suggestions, for now. But new laws could be proposed based on the information. 

I didn't have time to read all 300 pages, so I downloaded the "brief." There's also an article about it on MSNBC.

Basically, the IOM divides acceptable foods into two tiers. The first tier is "healthy stuff" like fruit, veggies, yogurt and whole-grain products. Kids can get this stuff whenever. The second includes items that are a little more indulgent, but still meet designated health criteria. The IOM suggests that Tier 2 stuff be restricted to High School students and only available after school.

Now, some people get all upset about any type of food restriction, like the moms in Britain who smuggled fast food to their kids after it was banned from school. But, while I think the food pyramid is wonky and wrong in lots of ways, I do think this is a move in the right direction. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that children have an unalienable right to drink Coca Cola and eat Snickers Bars whenever they want to.

I know how hard I crash after I eat lots of sugar...makes it harder to do calculus and conjugate Latin verbs. And really committed junk food junkies can still bring stuff in from home...it's just recommended that schools not sell it.

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Comments

Molly

Something similar is happening at Fletcher Allen right now (I work there). The dietary department is making changes to both the patient menus and the food offered to staff. For instance: having all bread products contain whole grains and getting rid of ALL of the deep fat fryers in favor of broilers.

I can't believe how irate and indignant employees are getting about it! The dietary department is being deluged with extremely angry feedback. It's like their civil rights are being violated. I think the changes are great and totally appropriate for hospitals (and schools) to be making such efforts.

Gosh, our actual Constitutional rights are being violated left and right and these pinheads are getting all frothy about someone trying to encourage healthier eating habits? Give me a frickin' break. I think arterial blockage is cutting off the blood flow to their brains.

Suzanne

Hi Molly! Well said. One would think that FA employees would understand the impacts of diet on health, and would embrace any effort to help improve patients' wellbeing if not their own. Should the hospital have cigarette machines because some employees choose to smoke? And it's not as if they're forbidden to bring lunch from home or to scarf M&Ms all day if they want to, right?

P.S. Thanks for being the first non-Seven Days staffer to comment on my blog!

Molly

Oh, I like your blog and everything you've done for 7D. I'm honored to be the first non-staff commenter.

I love food! I love cooking. I wish I could afford to go out to eat and experiment with recipes and ingredients more often. Right now I'm pondering a neglected culinary niche some friends and I recently discovered: vegan white trash.

Lisa Crean

Have been meaning to comment on this...

One big issue is enforcement, especially since school districts have become hooked on revenue from junk food purveyors. My sister is a teacher in Michigan. The school has a "no soda during the school day" policy. (Not sure if it's a district-wide policy or state rule.) The vending machines are supposed to be on timers, programmed by the vendors so that the kids can't buy during school hours.

Have the companies done the required programming? No. So the school just unplugs the machines during the day. What do the kids do when they want a Coke? Plug 'em back in. Is the principal standing watch, guarding against unauthorized soda sales? Of course not. The kids aren't prohibited from bringing their own from home anyway. It's a tony suburb, where kids are just as likely to be toting a Venti Mocha Frappuchino to class. The school cafeteria features Pizza Hut and Taco Bell! The mixed messages, and unenforced rules, are worse than no rules at all. And frankly, it's just a microcosm of the disciplinary culture--appetite is not the only thing overindulged and dietary common sense is not the only thing disrespected.

Just saw a Nightline segment last night: a 368 lb. girl underwent gastric bypass in Houston. (She had a BMI of 77--21-25 is healthy; anything over 40 is morbidly obese.) Pediatricians (!) there are seeing type II diabetes, liver disease requiring transplantation and premature cardiac death in KIDS--all from the entirely preventable epidemic of childhood obesity.

We are what we eat in this country. Many European countries don't allow junk food advertising during children's television programming. That would be one place to start. Have you ever been in the hospital, on "nothing by mouth" restriction, watching TV? That's when you realize how pervasive food marketing is--and it's definitely not the veggie and lean meat lobbies pushing their seductive wares.

Suzanne

Hi Molly! Vegan white trash, eh? I'd love to learn more about that. So, for a picnic, I'm imagining something like potato salad and cole slaw made with Nayonaise, tofu dogs, corn on the cob...am I heading in the right direction?

Molly

Yes, that's the idea! One of the best vegan white trash ideas is using GimmeLean hamburger and sausage substitute in recipes.

Casey [Rea] and his wife Brooke made us vegan chili served over corn chips one night. It was awesome.

mukesh

Georgia is the best vendor of the coffee machine and we have an experienced team of coffee vending machines we will provide onsite support so no need to go anywhere just make the call to us or visit our website. We have many types of coffee and tea vending machines and we basically based in Gurgaon but we giving support also In DELHI. We deal with big brands like Lipton and Nescafe.

http://www.georgiateacoffee.com/about.html

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