Temptation Is Everywhere

Pirate Bake Sale

Childhood Obesity News has been talking about holiday problems, including the superabundance of food in many households. A mom/hostess might fix lots of healthy snacks, but a bachelor uncle will probably stop off at the Chocolate-Covered Bacon Shack for a Bonanza Bucket, and make that his contribution to the family meal. It’s all part of the sharing, fun, and togetherness.

Dr. Pretlow says:

There’s ‘junk food,’ and ‘fast food,’ how about ‘addictafood’? Which foods are potentially addictive? Which foods do kids have the most problem with? We’re talking about kids here — just ask ’em.

Dr. Pretlow did exactly that, via his website for kids, parents, and health care professionals, Weigh2Rock. Poll #87 asked about specific problem foods, and Poll #92 posed the question, “What foods are you addicted to?” The answer to that question would seem to be a pretty good starting place for deciding which items to make rules about.

Dr. Pretlow asks:

How do we deal with this? Labels? Taxation? Banning certain products? Restricting sale to kids? Some localities have banned fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and of course some schools are removing junk food vending machines. Is this fair to kids who don’t have a problem? How about even within a household, where one kid has a problem and the siblings don’t? … Even if one doesn’t believe that kids can develop dependencies on these ‘foods’, with resulting obesity, it’s obvious that some kids struggle with them.

And they will continue to struggle. The human propensity to celebrate holidays by feasting is not going to change any time soon. The most well-intentioned legislature can’t do much about such an overwhelmingly entrenched cultural imperative. Sometimes, even the law must stop at the front door of a home. But the schools — that’s different. There, health-conscious activists can have some influence. And they try.

A school district’s typical new-policy wish list might include such items as, “80% of all food and beverages sold in public schools will be defined by strict nutritional standards.” It might specify that “things like bake sales must offer healthier choices, such as bran muffins instead of cupcakes,” and that junk food “can still be sold as fundraisers, but is limited to four times a year.”

One of the most popular ways for an organization to raise funds, especially for education-related projects, has always been the bake sale. In parts of America, sales, bake-a-thons, and church bazaars still thrive. But this could change.

A year ago, during the runup to President Obama’s signing of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, the American Council on Science and Health provided opinions on this controversial issue from two of its members. One thought that forbidding parents from bringing treats to school was “outrageous and unnecessary.” Another was more optimistic:

Dr. Elizabeth Whelan believes the bill’s bake sale policy is an unnecessary government intrusion that will do nothing to curb childhood obesity… Dr. Gilbert Ross, however, points out that the restrictions only apply to fundraisers and other events involving baked goods sold during school hours on school premises — it would still permit students to organize bake sales after-school or outside the school.

Even before that, nutrition expert Marion Nestle addressed the question:

I’ve had several requests to comment on the new New York City Board of Education restrictions on what foods parents can bring to school bake sales. Home-baked goods are forbidden. Instead, parents may bring… any of 27 commercial packaged snack foods … if forced to choose between packaged snacks and home-baked cupcakes, I’d throw out the commercial snacks, and put some restrictions on the size and frequency of items at bake sales, but otherwise choose home-cooking every time.

Judicial Watch took a dim view of the government messing around with bake sales, putting them, as the writer phrases it, “on the chopping block”:

Under the new measure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will decide if and when schools can have bake sales and the agency has the authority to ban them all together… No word yet on the results of any national bake-sale studies.

Apparently, the USDA was given a year to figure out what to do about the importation of food from home (or the bakery or supermarket) into schools. There doesn’t seem to be any word on that yet, either.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Hamilton schools looking to go healthier,” y108.ca , 05/25/10
Source: “Child nutrition bill seeks to combat obesity by limiting bake sales,” acsh.org, 12/07/10
Source: “The NYC school bake sale fiasco,” Food Politics, 03/25/10
Source: “Feds Take Over School Bake Sales,” Judicial Watch, 12/14/10
Image by nikkicookiebaker (nicole danielson), used under its Creative Commons license.

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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