Governor Rell missed her opportunity to sign the ban on sales of soda and junk food in our schools last year when it was first passed -- and now she has shown a complete lack of the leadership necessary to get it through the legislature this year. Our kids deserve better.The junk food ban bugs me. It isn't just that it's another instance of the nanny state rearing its head, but that it's a breathtaking cop-out.
That's why I am once again announcing my support for the proposal to ban the sales of soda and junk food in our schools -- and I am calling on the state legislature to pass this ban, and on Governor Rell to finally sign it.
We must never put corporate profit and the influence of lobbyists ahead of the health of our kids.
Our kids have already waited long enough for us to act. (Malloy)
Even if we take the junk food ban at face value, most schools don't allow sales from vending machines until after school hours are over. That means that, at best, we'll be protecting kids from Frito-Lay and Dr. Pepper after school, not during--when they can bring anything they like to lunch, study hall or class, not to mention what they eat at home. So it's a small, timid little ban that won't actually have much of an effect on kids' health at all.
But that's not the problem.
Some Democrats, Malloy and DeStefano included, have accused Governor Rell of dealing with big problems with "a press release and a band-aid," or, in effect, promising to do something but not actually fixing the problem. That's what the junk food ban is. It's a great press release: the Democrats seem to be protecting kids from big corporate goons, while promoting healthy lifestyles. Perfect. What could be better?
As it turns out, just about everything. A ban on junk food won't help kids be healthier: at best it will deny them the opportunity to buy snacks that their parents probably buy for them anyway. Also, schools are cutting down on gym classes. It's hard to find work as a physical education teacher, these days. Gym costs too much, so it gets cut back. Score one for the white hats.
The junk food ban also won't keep kids away from exposure to corporate sponsorship. In schools alone, team uniforms increasingly bear corporate logos (Nike and Reebok, for example), as do scoreboards, and companies sponsor educational films, activities and, worst of all, fundraisers. If you want new band uniforms, sell a hundred Crunch bars each, or a dozen subscriptions to third-rate magazines. Great. The problem is, schools need the money, so they turn to where the money is.
Out of school, kids see and hear advertising everywhere they go. TV, movies, radio, internet, walls, buses... everywhere. A ban on junk food is supposed to help?
If Democrats are serious about healthier kids, they could:
- Mandate more physical education and recess time during the day. Even in elementary schools, recess time has been cut back
- Improve school lunches, which are still putrid. When I was a teacher, you could get a heaping, steaming mound of grade-Z chicken nuggets for $2.00 or so. There were probably 30 of them. It was wretched.
- Promote healthy living for everyone by making recreational facilities clean, affordable, fully staffed and accessable to everyone
- Look at ways to combine services, streamline costs and rewrite the tax code to make it possible to pay for a healthier, less corporate school experience
Do that, and you start to actually address the real problems. Dan Malloy, John DeStefano and other Democratic leaders ought to think hard about whether they'd rather apply the band aid and walk away, or get to work curing the patient.
"Malloy: Our Kids' Health Should Come First." Malloy for Governor. Press Release, 17 April, 2006.