Monday, April 17, 2006

Junk Policy

The Democrats just can't let the junk food ban go. From Dan Malloy:
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.

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)
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.

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.


turfgrrl said...

Today William Slaeten of Slate has a good article on the war against junk food, here.. GC hits the nail on the head with this post. The problem is junk food or soda in the schools, its the parents. Parents drive their kids to school, to the bus stop, to activities. They drive their kids to the stores and buy all sorts of junk foods and then provide the cash for the kids to buy whatever junk food they want. If parents want to solve the problem, they should start by looking in the mirror.

Top-n-Center said...

Gimme a break.... Has anyone defined junk food... Tater Tots, Styrofoam Fries, and oh-so-soft chocolate cookies would be junk food in my house-- but served up regularly at my local high schools. Heck - they're staples in just about every elementary, middle, and high school I've ever been in....

The issue - like so many others-- appears to be one Dems want to file under their surrogate parenting platform.

I still don't understand the push from the left for this ban though... So much effort was spent to regain the control of vending rights statewide on behalf BOARD OF EDUCATION AND SERVICES FOR THE BLIND (BESB)that it seems odd that the Dems would destroy the source of revenue for a social program benefitting blind people to make a ridiculous stand on soda and canned juice and granola and NutriGrain bars...

Is my take on the slighting BESB valid? Anyone?

Genghis Conn said...

That's a great article, turfgrrl--thanks for posting the link. There are a lot of parallels to the war on smoking, in that it's a feel-good fight against an easy target.

DeanFan84 said...

I must live in an alternative universe.

Does anyone here understand how concessions work? What usually happens is that Pepsi goes to the school's decision-makers and cuts a deal for access to its students. Whether that deal is cash under the table, or new uniforms for the school band, is immaterial. What is relevant is that money is changing hands in return for the exclusive right to market to that school's children.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Public schools should be marketing free zones, and school boards shouldn't be cutting deals with the junk food industry.

Turfgirl is right. There are plenty of other places for Frito-Lay, (Coca-Cola), to connect with its targeted under-age market. Just not the schools. What is wrong with sending the message that junk food is basically bad, by saying "You're not welcome!" to the industry?

I suppose that most everyone concurs that Joe Camel and Spuds McKenzie were insidious campaigns. The same goes for the junk food industry's attempt to buy access to our children.

Chris MC said...

GC, you're arguing for the near perfect and in the process opposing the merely good.

Your argument, pared of its provocative intent, amounts to "this isn't enough, if Democrats are serious, they'd do much more".
I heartily agree that much more is needed.

Malloy has stepped up again and taken a clear position. It is another demonstration of the kind of leadership that both you and turrfgirl have said elsewhere on other topics this state needs. Malloy deserves our support for this excellent first step in taking back our school system.

Some parents need to excercise better judgement and exert more effort in raising their kids, to be sure. But when it comes to policy discussions, this is an old cop out that candidly isn't up to GC's nor turfgrrl's standards.

The Slaeten article cites the GAO School Meal Program report. The truly salient fact at issue here can be found right in the third paragraph on page one:
[...] 75 percent of high schools, 65 percent of middle schools, and 30 percent of elementary schools have contracts with "beverage"—i.e., soda—companies. [...] The contracts stipulate how many thousands of cases each district has to buy, and they offer schools a bigger cut of the profits from soda than from juice or water.

Pretty cut and dried, to coin a phrase.

MikeCT said...

The place where kids spend 30 hours a week or more has a role in their health & well-being, whether you like it or not. That includes diet. How does it make sense to increase exercise while feeding them junk that cancels out the impact of exercise? For parents to feed their kids healthy food and have that undercut in school, where they can't control what their kids are eating? For schools to respond to the public health problem of obesity by profiting from the sale of junk food? (And shouldn't we eliminate exercise in school? And health education? Aren't those parental responsibilities, too? I'm fed up with those nanny state gym classes!)

Top-n-Center said...

If I wanted my school system to go onto Ebay this morning and buy a used vending machine, put my town seal logo in the front of it and fill it up with product, and profit wholly from the sales - is soneone going to legislate what I can put in it?

Where is the definition of "junk food"?

Hey Disgruntled - Didn't the school FBLA program sell Snickers during passing time at your high school (Fermi)? Is that subject to the Dems legislation, too?

Maybe each child should get an IV bag of all the day's calories and nutrients on the busride to school. We could eliminate the school lunch program all together...

superD said...

The ban on junk food is wise one. We are teaching our children about healthy food, exercise, taking care of themselves and then we turn around and put candy, cookies, soda and snack foods into their schools via a vending machine. While some argue that parental discretion is being usurped, this argument doesn't hold water. Some parents let their children watch TV all day -- does that mean the schools should as well? Children whose parent's don't force them to do homework should be exempt from doing wrok at school? Children whose parent's exercise no discipline, should be able to exhibit their bad behavior at school? No, because at schools, different rules apply -- rule that help to keep our children safe, healthy and enable them to learn.

Schools, unfortunately, are using the funds made from the vending machines to supplement their budgets, which is why many schools object to the ban. That is unfortunate, and yet another example of why the ECS is so flawed as to be worthless to our communities, their students and their schools.

Before everyone jumps in an criticizes school lunches, they should speak with their Food Service Director. The State stipulates how much fat, sugar, salt, protein, fruit, vegetables, grains can be in school lunches, and schools have to meet these standards. Schools have to share their menus with the state, and the state assesses them to ensure they are complying with healthy meal guidelines.

The cookies, etc. you may see on your lunch menu, especially for elementary and MS, are most likely low sugar, fat free or sugar free. Do your homework first, criticize/comment second.

Thomas Craven said...

Top-N-Center said....

Where is the definition of "junk food"?


Junk food is a slang word for foods with limited nutritional value. Every person has their own list of foods that they call junk foods. I would include foods that are high in salt, sugar, fat or calories and low nutrient content.

Salted snack foods, candy, gum, most sweet desserts, fried fast food and carbonated beverages are some of the major junk foods. Generally, they offer little in terms of protein, vitamins or minerals and lots of calories from sugar or fat. The term "empty calories" reflects the lack of nutrients.

Rather than taking a radical approach and banning all but the simplest foods, judge each food based on the list of ingredients and Nutrition Facts label found on packages. When reading the list of ingredients, look for sugar, fat or salt as one of the first three ingredients. If any of these are listed that high in the ingredients, you can probably consider that food to be too high in sugar, fat or salt.

This is a small section of the larger definition of "junk food".

goodbye said...

Let's forget about the philosophical discussion for a minute and remeber that Jodi, who makes decisions based on politics rather than philosophy, waffled and said she would sign the bill this time around.

Wolcottboy said...

I don't think waffles are junk. :) Unless of course you let the kids eat too much syrup.

nadia said...

Last May 2005, I ran for the Eugene, Oregon School Board , against the executive of Pepsi cola Eric Forrest. I was followed, stalked, telephone harassment, hate emails, more than 5 a day on my blog, and run over several times on my way home. I was almost going to be killed. Just because of the corruption of Corporate Power and some of our elected officials!

The previous superintendent David Piercy and his wife Mayor Kittie Piercy, had played a bigger role in destroying me. KEZI our local TV station paraded me with the help of Chamber of Commerce.

They picked up a Jewish woman Aria Seligmann to run against me, to spilt the progressive community. So, all the Zionists came after me.

I had to file a stalking order to stop Aria and her campaign manager William Maxwell.

My two legislators' Sen. Vicki Walker -defended Pepsi executive: By blaming the obesity of the children on their family. Vicki said the "the children come to school obese. It is not the soda in the school to be blamed"- Rep. Bob Ackerman who had forged my family's signature and defrauded us, sold my family's condo, that worth $150, 000.00 by giving us only $41,000.00!- My commissioner Bobby Green, my councilman Gray Pape, and three other Councilors endorsed Eric Forrest. And the so called, progressive councilors such as Bonnie Bettman, Andréa Ortiz and "Mayor for all Eugene, but not the Arabs or Muslim" Kittie Piercy endorsed the other candidate who was not even democrat or qualified! And of course the previous Mayor Jim Torrey, who's running now for legislature seat,. Jim Torrey head the kids Sport to hide his agenda of supporting junk food in the schools !

All the elected members of the Eugene school Board endorsed and appointed Eric Forrest to the Board.

The 4J Superintendent George Russel, with our Superintendent Susan Castillo too were very much supportive of Eric Forrest and Soda in the Schools.

My life was and still in peril just, because of $320.000.00 contribution from the soda executives. Read about it in our Register Guard paper Tuesday April 11-06

We must put stop to this kind of abuse and corruption. We need to hold our elected official accountable for their misconduct and greed.