We always want the best for our children. We hope to give them what they need to grow up healthy and to thrive.
While we can’t be there every minute of every day to make sure they wear their coats when they go outside during recess and to keep them from acting out in class, we can support better food options in the cafeteria.
The Department of Agriculture recently proposed rules to ban the sale of all candy, high-calorie sports drinks and greasy foods. Instead, vending machines will be stocked with water, lower-calorie sports drinks, diet sodas and baked chips. Lunches would consist of items such as healthier pizzas, low-fat hamburgers, fruit cups and yogurt instead of fried mozzarella sticks and nachos.
These new regulations would allow the government to set fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits on almost all foods sold in schools, adding to the restrictions already in place for the nutritional content of school breakfasts and lunches subsidized by government programs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity in the U.S. has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In children aged 6 to 11, obesity has increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010. In those aged 12 to 19, it’s gone from 5 percent to 8 percent over the same 20-year period.
We may not like the sound of government controlling what our children eat. But if parents want to send their children to school with a lunch bag full of soda, potato chips, snack cakes and candy, they still have that option. This is still a parent’s choice.
With so much of our school lunches already tied up with government financial support, it makes sense to take the option of junk food out of schools. We should not undermine the healthy meals now being served in the cafeteria with candy and soda, which can contribute to poor eating habits at an early age. Those habits can following children into adulthood and lead to health problems.
Some of our schools have already taken steps to provide better options, and they should be lauded for leading the way. This includes Edmeston Central School, which has been working to control portion size, using local produce in meals and maintaining a greenhouse at the school.
And U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., should be praised for pushing an initiative in Washington to get more Greek yogurt into our schools. The yogurt has a high protein level, making it a viable meat alternative for menu planning. This benefits not only the health of our children, but also means more business for local yogurt company Chobani.