Childhood Obesity: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

One ray of sunshine in the usually gloomy childhood obesity news – In New York City there has been a slight decrease in childhood obesity rates in the last 5 years. The 5.5% decrease is in stark contrast to many parts of the nation where obesity rates are still going up. Before we rejoice, keep in mind that over 20% of schoolchildren in NY are still considered obese.

“Because of coordinated, sustained action I am happy to say our children are benefiting from our campaign against obesity, which has plagued communities here in New York and across the nation for nearly three decades,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Bloomberg said the 5.5 percent drop translated into roughly 6,500 fewer obese children in the public schools. Read more…

What is New York doing that nobody else is?

  • An aggressive advertising campaign against sugary sodas
  • Healthier options in school lunches
  • Limits on bake sales
  • Strict limitations on school vending machines contents

But mostly, the efforts are coordinated and coming from the top. Kudos, mayor Bloomberg.

Unfortunately, some school districts are not as fortunate. In Seattle, the school board is considering relaxing its restrictions on junk food sold in high school vending machines. Students are not spending as much as they used to, and schools aren’t seeing their share of the revenue.

In 2001, before the junk-food ban was passed, high-school associated student body (ASB) governments across the city made $214,000 in profits from vending machines, according to district data. This year, they’ve made $17,000.

… the ASB organizations — which subsidize athletic uniform and transportation costs, support student clubs, hold school dances and fund the yearbook and newspaper, among other expenses — have had to cancel programs and ask students to pay significantly more to participate on athletic teams and in school clubs.

The impact has been especially hard on South End schools because most don’t have wealthy parent groups to support activities and many students can’t afford higher costs to participate. read more…

Get it? Schools need junk food money to provide funding for the extra curricular activities.

And of course Congress has shown its commitment to children’s wellbeing by authorizing pizza as a vegetable, and by OK-ing the continued bombardment of children with junk food ads.

One step forward, two steps back.

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  • Kate Heuchera

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I think there are some real questions raised  in the Seattle article about what school districts do once they become dependent on those revenue streams to fund activities.  The questions go beyond what the scope of this blog is.

    Our local music auxiliary manages to do almost all fundraising without any food related activities, but you’ve got a fairly committed group of parents involved there.

    At our high school football games the booster club probably makes a gold mine from selling junk food, the money(plus the ticket sales) goes to support all athletics.  I don’t like that they sell so much junk food….but without the sales I’m sure cuts would be made in some way.

    I’d hate to see a system where it is pay to play for the public schools.

    On a side note, I’ve never seen any school where bake sales are so excessive as to be a significant cause of obesity…….but I think when schools try to limit bake sales, there is more going on.

  • http://twitter.com/PentelofAmerica Pentel of America

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  • Reda Jabbare