BC’s schools are on a health jag. All over the province, they’re implementing a variety of initiatives to increase physical activity and better eating in students. Can’t disagree with that. Hats off to those that are removing or limiting pop and vending machines and providing healthier alternatives. Huge applauds to schools that are increasing nutritional education, amending cafeteria guidelines to eliminate high-fat, high-sugar and low-nutrition foods, and encouraging students to fuel their bodies with whole, wholesome foods.
Obesity is on the rise pretty much everywhere in North America, increasing the demands on the healthcare system to care for obesity-related issues, and inventing new demands, such as “bariatric” care — that is, a specialized team of medical, therapeutic, and other professionals and equipment for obese patients. It’s a sad state, that the population is getting so fat that the standardized hospital bed, wheelchair, etc., etc., just isn’t enough anymore.
So I support the efforts being made by BC schools and think they’ve tapped into the right source: the kids. Teach them to eat healthy, exercise, and understand their bodies so that future obesity can be prevented — yes!
Recently, though, I heard from a teacher in Nanaimo about a new plan being implemented in some schools. Essentially, all “bad foods” are being banished from the schools — that’s right, no Oreos in your lunch, no Halloween candy on campus, and remember those cool bake sales for fundraising? Well, they are no more. I’m not aware of all the details of the new initiative, but really? No more bake sales?
I agree with no pop, no processed foods, no mass produced cookies filled with preservatives . . . but is it really necessary to ban everything with sugar in it? I’m not a nutritionist or a scientist, but I feel pretty confident in saying that homemade cookies, cupcakes, and banana breads are far healthier than their store bought counterparts. How about keeping the bake sales but not allowing for store-bought contributions, and setting some healthier guidelines for what can be donated?
The mantra of many diet experts and nutritionists is: moderation, moderation, moderation. If you banish all foods that aren’t perfectly healthy, how are kids going to learn you can eat cookies, but that some are healthier than others, and that eating in moderation is key?
Teaching kids to abstain from whole categories of food is, to me, the same as teaching abstinence from sex and omitting any discussion of safe sex. And then people are surprised when hormonal teenagers “treat” themselves, end up pregnant or infected with an STD, and are surprised to learn (after the fact) that contraception was an option, but in ordinance with the abstinence program, no one thought to teach them about birth control and safe sex.
Removing problematic foods from schools is not, I say, an adequate or sustainable solution. It’s a big world out there and when kids leave their elementary school campus for the day and head home, they are going to stop at the corner store and buy a chocolate bar or a can of pop. I would like to see kids being taught about alternatives to store-bought snack food (homemade cake made with applesauce instead of oil is healthier and tastes just as good), portion control, and moderation. In doing so, they’ll learn to incorporate “junk” food into their diet without becoming unhealthy — and without having to give up cookies entirely.