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Name a junk food and chances are, I'll eat it. But as much as I love junk, I don't want our schools to love junk too. Schools have a responsibility to be models in the community, and as much as I love McDonald's No. 3 breakfast meal (artery clogging, I know, I know), I had oatmeal in front of my kids in the morning. If I had to eat in front of them, I needed to at least be a good role model.
But being a good role model will only take you so far when the school is serving the kids corn dogs and Pop Tarts for breakfast. Sooner or later, one would need to lobby the district, state or federal government for healthier meals for kids. So it's a wonderful thing that there is new legislation on the table to reduce the amount of junk food sold in cafeterias, vending machines and snacks bars. If this amendment to the farm bill passes (and there's great debate on whether it will actually pass, so let's hope for the next generation's sake that something effective passes), it will be the "broadest effort to limit what children eat," the New York Times reports.
"Food for sale would have to be limited in saturated and trans fat and have less than 35 percent sugar. Sodium would be limited, and snacks must have no more than 180 calories per serving for middle and elementary schools and 200 calories for high schools."
That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that "The standards would not affect occasional fund-raising projects, like Girl Scout cookie sales."
How does one define occasional fund-raising projects? My visits to middle and high schools these days, especially around the noon or three o'clock hours, are much like a trip around Costco. I'm there for 800 napkins (or 5 classroom observation), but while there, I can pick up a brownie, some pizza and a bag of hot Cheetos with cheese sauce (a south Texas favorite!). A different club is raising money every day of the week. By the time I loop around the building, I'm 5 observations and 700 calories healthier.
But from there is better news. Unlike corporate-purchased snack bar snacks, promoting healthier fund-raisers is entirely within the control of the community. Sure, that pan of brownies can turn a $10 profit in 20 minutes, but with all the news coming out on childhood obesity and its health risks, the effects for those brownies are bleaker and more immediate than ever.
I never took this on as a club sponsor, but now wish I did: What would it take to lower the risk for heart disease just in the school hallway? What would it look like if every fund-raising booth sold healthier snacks? How would it be if our students were empowered to lead this movement on their own to change the school themselves? Sometimes, the greatest changes can happen outside our Capitol.
Food for thought: Some are a bit fancy for 13-year-olds and not after-school-hallway-appropriate, but here's a quick list of healthy snacks.
Back to School: A database of top healthy snacks, smoothies and special ones for kids
Fun and Healthy Quick recipes to use with the kids
Healthy Snacks and Beverages for Kids: Some good ideas ranging from turkey roll-ups to trail mix recipes
Eating Well: A bit more on the gourmet end.