Category Archives: Nutrition

Berkeley, a city consumed by a soda tax

Berkeleyside:

On Nov. 4, Berkeley voters will show where they stand on Measure D, the so-called Soda Tax. The proposed tax on sugary beverages has been one of the most hotly debated Berkeley issues in the city’s history, and certainly one that has brought in record levels of campaign expenditure. The No on Measure D lobby has spent $2.3 million in an attempt to defeat the tax, according to campaign finance reports. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has contributed $432,071 in support of the soda tax. (That includes $265,235 for network advertising for commercials during the World Series, $96,836 for cable ads, and a cash donation of $170,000 to the Yes on Measure D effort.) UC Berkeley’s Robert Reich has been vocal in his views — writing a blog post about the issue titled “In its battle with Big Soda, Berkeley may once again make history,” and shooting a video on the same subject.

Gael McKeon has spent several weeks documenting both sides of the campaign with his camera to create this photo essay of a pivotal moment in Berkeley’s political history, one that may set the stage for change nationwide. We publish it exclusively on Berkeleyside. (The ‘No on D’ campaign declined to participate in this story.)

What Happens When Second Graders Are Treated to a Seven-Course, $220 Tasting Meal

Jeffrey Blitz:

One Saturday afternoon last month, six second graders from P.S. 295 in Brooklyn got a head start on the fine-dining life when they visited the acclaimed French restaurant Daniel. There, five waiters presented them with a seven-course tasting menu (after the trio of canapés and an amuse-bouche, naturellement). The meal was overseen by the star chef and eponym himself, Daniel Boulud, whose goal was, he says, “for the children to really discover a lot of flavor, a lot of layers, a lot of texture.” These discoveries included Smoked Paprika Cured Hamachi (the “most-foreign thing for them,” Boulud says), Crispy Japanese Snapper (“which they loved to see”) and Wagyu Beef Rib-Eye (“a big success”). To capture the children’s reactions, the magazine asked Jeffrey Blitz, the director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Spellbound,” to make a video. The initiates seemed to enjoy the experience, but that isn’t to say they loved all those flavors and textures. At one point, after tasting a custom-made nonalcoholic cocktail, 7-year-old Chester Parish said: “This is, like, the only good course. It’s yummy.”

Yum, McDonald’s bottom line shrinks as Americans eat healthier

Lisa Baertlien:

Yum Brands Inc’s disappointing Pizza Hut and Taco Bell results, along with other data, suggested the U.S. fast-food business remained weak in the second quarter and that industry leader McDonald’s Corp continues to struggle.
 
 The U.S. fast-food segment has lagged the broader restaurant sector, due to weak job growth and stagnant pay among the lower-wage diners who frequent such restaurants. The sector also is struggling to remain relevant as more consumers move away from decadent food like cheeseburgers and french fries to fresher, healthier fare.

Some districts balk at latest serving of school lunch rules

Robert Gebelhoff:

Salty chips. Candy bars. Full-calorie sodas.

Don’t expect to find any of this in schools anymore — not in hot lunches, not in vending machines, not even in high school snack bars.

Schools across the nation are preparing to work with stricter standards for nutrition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as part of a nationwide campaign championed by first lady Michelle Obama to eliminate empty calories. The new standards took effect Tuesday for all schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program and will build off previously implemented standards that limited serving sizes and restricted what food was healthy enough for the program.

What can students expect to find? Wheat bread, low-calorie drinks, meals with limited sugar, fat and salt.

Some district officials are saying they’re all for healthy food, but they have to sell enough hot lunches to break even on their program — and that won’t work if the kids shun the food. They also are a little prickly about federal officials telling them what to do.

“We believe that proper food nutrition and meal portion guidelines are best decided at a local level,” said Rick Petfalski, School Board president for the Muskego-Norway School District.

Opting out of the program means Muskego-Norway will no longer receive federal money for its meals, but it also means the district is free to serve whatever it wants.

Already losing money because fewer kids were buying the meals, the district will now have to cover the cost of free and reduced lunches on its own. It will do this partly by spending less on foods that students don’t eat and — they believe — increasing the number of kids buying lunches by providing tastier meals.

Can We Predict Which Teens Are Likely To Binge Drink? Maybe

Maanvi Singh:

More than half of 16-year-olds in the United States have tried alcohol. While many of them learn to drink responsibly, some go on to binge on alcohol, putting themselves at risk for trouble as adults. Researchers still aren’t sure why that is.

But it may be possible to predict with about 70 percent accuracy which teens will become binge drinkers, based on their genetics, brain function, personality traits and history, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature.

And as prediction tools get better, the researchers say, we’ll be better able to warn and help those who are most at risk.

“It’s sort of a deep mystery — why do some people become addicted and others don’t,” says Hugh Garavan, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and the study’s senior author.

For years we’ve been telling kids to sit still and pay attention. That’s all wrong.

Annie Murphy Paul:

Today’s educational technology often presents itself as a radical departure from the tired practices of traditional instruction. But in one way, at least, it faithfully follows the conventions of the chalk-and-blackboard era: EdTech addresses only the student’s head, leaving the rest of the body out.

Treating mind and body as separate is an old and powerful idea in Western culture. But this venerable trope is facing down a challenge from a generation of researchers—in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, even philosophy—who claim that we think with and through our bodies. Even the most abstract mathematical or literary concepts, these researchers maintain, are understood in terms of the experience of our senses and of moving ourselves through space.

This perspective, known as “embodied cognition,” is now becoming a lens through which to look at educational technology. Work in the field shows promising signs that incorporating bodily movements—even subtle ones—can improve the learning that’s done on computers.

Pupils on free school meals for only a year become ‘invisible underachievers’

Richard Adams:

Children who qualify for free school meals for just one year become “invisible underachievers” who receive little government support but achieve similar results to those who remain on free school meals during their entire school career.

Research from education data analysts FFT found that the group makes up around 7% of year 11 pupils, meaning that almost 40,000 students suffer similar levels of deprivation but receive fewer of the benefits, in most cases because their household income is just above the £16,000 threshold.

Those who received FSM for only one year average a D grade at GCSE – only slightly above those who are on the meals continuously, but almost a grade lower than pupils who have never received them.

Locally, Madison plans to expand its “free meal” program. Will this address Madison’s long standing disastrous reading results?

Greased palms and dried fruit

The Economist:

OBESITY, according to a government-sponsored report, could make the current generation of Americans the first in history to live shorter lives than the previous one. A major change in food habits is needed to reverse the trend of widening waistlines (a development which we recently illustrated on our blog Graphic detail). Recognising that people’s dietary preferences develop at an early age, John List of the University of Chicago and Anya Savikhin Samek of the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined in a recent study whether children can be “nudged” (or incentivised) to eat more fruits and less sweets. Their results suggest that the answer is yes.

In a field experiment carried out in Chicago over several weeks, Mr List and Ms Savikhin Samek tested the impact of giving kids an incentive to choose food they normally would not. During after-school programmes dubbed “Kids’ Cafes” in 24 different locations across the city, children aged 6-18 were offered a free snack and could select either a cup with dried fruit (dried banana with acai or dried mango) or a cookie (such as snickerdoodle or chocolate chip). A group of the Kids’ Cafes was randomly selected to offer the children at their particular site an incentive to pick the cup; each time an individual chose the dried fruit over the cookie and ate it in the cafeteria, he or she would receive a small prize worth 50 cents or less (for example a wristband, pen or keychain).

In Pursuit of Knowledge, and Profit How universities aid and abet patent trolls

Daniel Engber:

A few weeks ago, administrators at Penn State University did something they believed had never been attempted in American academia: The school put about 70 engineering patents up for auction and tried to sell them to the highest bidder. They weren’t so successful—not many patents sold—but the project has disturbing implications. What if all this intellectual property, based on research done at a public institution, were to end up in the hands of someone less interested in innovation than in hauling companies to court? What if Penn State auctioned its inventions to a greedy patent troll?

It wouldn’t be the first time that an institute of higher learning had partnered up with patent trolls, or mimicked their behavior. Universities and patent trolls have some major traits in common: Both make money off of legal rights; both let other businesses implement ideas and then pinch a portion of the revenue; both purport to bring that money back to those innovators who most deserve it. Looked at from a distance, and with squinted eyes, a school might seem to be a patent troll itself—and that resemblance is growing stronger.

Reinventing School Lunches

Liz Stinson:

IDEO recently took on a particularly picky client: Kids. More specifically, kids who should be eating school lunches on the regular, but weren’t.

The San Francisco Unified School District hired the design firm (through a donation from the Sarah & Evan Williams Foundation) last spring to answer a nagging, persistent question: How do you get kids to eat lunch at school, and get them to do so consistently?

This was a big problem. The district has more than 55,000 students attending 114 schools. Nearly 60 percent of them qualify for free or reduced lunch, but only 60 percent qualifying students were taking advantage of it. Only around 40 percent of all students were eating the lunches on a regular basis. It was a wasted opportunity, and an expensive one at that. “The school district was running a huge operation at what ended up being a deficit because kids weren’t really participating,” says Sandy Speicher, an associate partner at IDEO.

Idea of New Attention Disorder Spurs Research, and Debate

Alan Schwarz:

With more than six million American children having received a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, concern has been rising that the condition is being significantly misdiagnosed and overtreated with prescription medications.
 
 Yet now some powerful figures in mental health are claiming to have identified a new disorder that could vastly expand the ranks of young people treated for attention problems. Called sluggish cognitive tempo, the condition is said to be characterized by lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing. By some researchers’ estimates, it is present in perhaps two million children.
 
 Experts pushing for more research into sluggish cognitive tempo say it is gaining momentum toward recognition as a legitimate disorder — and, as such, a candidate for pharmacological treatment. Some of the condition’s researchers have helped Eli Lilly investigate how its flagship A.D.H.D. drug might treat it.

Reports of a Drop in Childhood Obesity Are Overblown

Mike Derer:

It is no secret that the United States has a weight problem. Roughly 30 percent of American adults are clinically obese, or have a body mass index of at least 30. That’s more than 175 pounds for someone who’s 5 foot 4, the average height of an American woman; or more than 203 pounds for someone who’s 5 foot 9, the average height of an American man. Obesity is associated with a whole host of health issues — diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, heart attack and on and on — meaning that for many of us, diet is the real killer.

Obesity rates have risen over time, especially in children. The disease we now refer to as Type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult-onset diabetes.” One of the main reasons for the name change is that the onset became increasingly common in children, caused by obesity.

With this backdrop, the headlines last month about declines in childhood obesity were remarkable and encouraging. Here’s how The New York Times described it: “Obesity Rate in Young Children Plummets 43% in a Decade.” This and other articles went on to describe a huge decrease — from 13.9 percent to 8.4 percent — in the obesity rate for children between the ages of 2 and 5. The articles cited all sorts of reasons for the drop, including that kids are drinking less soda and that more mothers are engaged in breastfeeding. First lady Michelle Obama’s push for kids to exercise more and eat healthier foods also got credit.

Poverty influences children’s early brain development

University of Wisconsin-Madison News
Poverty may have direct implications for important, early steps in the development of the brain, saddling children of low-income families with slower rates of growth in two key brain structures, according to researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
By age 4, children in families living with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty line have less gray matter — brain tissue critical for processing of information and execution of actions — than kids growing up in families with higher incomes.
“This is an important link between poverty and biology. We’re watching how poverty gets under the skin,” says Barbara Wolfe, professor of economics, population health sciences and public affairs and one of the authors of the study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
The differences among children of the poor became apparent through analysis of hundreds of brain scans from children beginning soon after birth and repeated every few months until 4 years of age. Children in poor families lagged behind in the development of the parietal and frontal regions of the brain — deficits that help explain behavioral, learning and attention problems more common among disadvantaged children.
The parietal lobe works as the network hub of the brain, connecting disparate parts to make use of stored or incoming information. The frontal lobe, according to UW-Madison psychology professor Seth Pollak, is one of the last parts of the brain to develop.
“It’s the executive. It’s the part of the brain we use to control our attention and regulate our behavior,” Pollak says. “Those are difficulties children have when transitioning to kindergarten, when educational disparities begin: Are you able to pay attention? Can you avoid a tantrum and stay in your seat? Can you make yourself work on a project?”
The maturation gap of children in poor families is more startling for the lack of difference at birth among the children studied.
“One of the things that is important here is that the infants’ brains look very similar at birth,” says Pollak, whose work is funded by the National Institutes of Health. “You start seeing the separation in brain growth between the children living in poverty and the more affluent children increase over time, which really implicates the postnatal environment.”

Childhood Poverty Linked to Poor Brain Development

Caroline Cassels
Exposure to poverty in early childhood negatively affects brain development, but good-quality caregiving may help offset this effect, new research suggests. A longitudinal imaging study shows that young children exposed to poverty have smaller white and cortical gray matter as well as hippocampal and amygdala volumes, as measured during school age and early adolescence.
“These findings extend the substantial body of behavioral data demonstrating the deleterious effects of poverty on child developmental outcomes into the neurodevelopmental domain and are consistent with prior results,” the investigators, with lead author Joan Luby, MD, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, write.
However, the investigators also found that the effects of poverty on hippocampal volume were influenced by caregiving and stressful life events.
The study was published online October 28 in JAMA Pediatrics.
Powerful Risk Factor
Poverty is one of the most powerful risk factors for poor developmental outcomes; a large body of research shows that children exposed to poverty have poorer cognitive outcomes and school performance and are at greater risk for antisocial behaviors and mental disorders. However, the researchers note, there are few neurobiological data in humans to inform the mechanism of these relationships.
“This represents a critical gap in the literature and an urgent national and global public health problem based on statistics that more than 1 in 5 children are now living below the poverty line in the United States alone,” the authors write.
To examine the effects of poverty on childhood brain development and to understand what factors might mediate its negative impact, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine total white and cortical gray matter as well as hippocampal and amygdala volumes in 145 children aged 6 to 12 years who had been followed since preschool.
The researchers looked at caregiver support/hostility, measured observationally during the preschool period, and stressful life events, measured prospectively. The children underwent annual behavioral assessments for 3 to 6 years prior to MRI scanning and were annually assessed for 5 to 10 years following brain imaging. Household poverty was measured using the federal income-to-needs ratio.
“Toxic” Effect

The researchers found that poverty was associated with lower hippocampal volumes, but they also found that caregiving behaviors and stressful life events could fully mediate this negative effect.
“The finding that the effects of poverty on hippocampal development are mediated through caregiving and stressful life events further underscores the importance of high-quality early childhood caregiving, a task that can be achieved through parenting education and support, as well as through preschool programs that provide high-quality supplementary caregiving and safe haven to vulnerable young children,” the investigators write.
In an accompanying editorial, Charles A. Nelson, PhD, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Massachusetts, notes that the findings show that early experience “weaves its way into the neural and biological infrastructure of the child in such a way as to impact development trajectories and outcomes.”
“Exposure to early life adversity should be considered no less toxic than exposure to lead, alcohol or cocaine, and, as such it merits similar attention from health authorities,” Dr. Nelson writes.

Poverty Can Trump a Winning Hand of Genes

Alison Gopnik
Changes in our environment can actually transform the relation between our traits and the outside world.
We all notice that some people are smarter than others. You might naturally wonder how much these differences in intelligence depend on genes or upbringing. But that question, it turns out, is impossible to answer. That’s because changes in our environment can actually transform the relationship among our traits, our upbringing and our genes.
The textbook illustration of this is a dreadful disease called PKU. Some babies have a genetic mutation that makes them unable to process an amino acid in their food, and it leads to severe mental retardation. For centuries, PKU was incurable. Genetics determined whether someone suffered from the syndrome, which gave them a low IQ. Then scientists discovered how PKU works. Now, we can immediately put babies with the mutation on a special diet. Whether a baby with PKU has a low IQ is now determined by the food they eat–by their environment.
We humans can figure out how our environment works and act to change it, as we did with PKU. So if you’re trying to measure the relative influence of human nature and nurture, you have to consider not just the current environment but also all the possible environments that we can create. This doesn’t just apply to obscure diseases. In the latest issue of Psychological Science, Timothy C. Bates of the University of Edinburgh and colleagues report a study of the relationship among genes, SES (socio-economic status, or how rich and educated you are) and IQ. They used statistics to analyze the differences between identical twins, who share all DNA, and fraternal twins, who share only some.
When psychologists first started studying twins, they found identical twins much more likely to have similar IQs than fraternal ones. They concluded that IQ was highly “heritable”–that is, due to genetic differences. But those were all high SES twins. Erik Turkheimer of the University of Virginia and his colleagues discovered that the picture was very different for poor, low-SES twins. For these children, there was very little difference between identical and fraternal twins: IQ was hardly heritable at all. Differences in the environment, like whether you lucked out with a good teacher, seemed to be much more important.
In the new study, the Bates team found this was even true when those children grew up. IQ was much less heritable for people who had grown up poor. This might seem paradoxical: After all, your DNA stays the same no matter how you are raised. The explanation is that IQ is influenced by education. Historically, absolute IQ scores have risen substantially as we’ve changed our environment so that more people go to school longer.
Richer children have similarly good educational opportunities, so genetic differences among them become more apparent. And since richer children have more educational choice, they (or their parents) can choose environments that accentuate and amplify their particular skills. A child who has genetic abilities that make her just slightly better at math may be more likely to take a math class, so she becomes even better at math.
But for poor children, haphazard differences in educational opportunity swamp genetic differences. Ending up in a terrible school or one a bit better can make a big difference. And poor children have fewer opportunities to tailor their education to their particular strengths. How your genes shape your intelligence depends on whether you live in a world with no schooling at all, a world where you need good luck to get a good education or a world with rich educational possibilities. If we could change the world for the PKU babies, we can change it for the next generation of poor children, too.

No Rich Child Left Behind

Sean F. Reardon

Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.
Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.
What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.
One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.
To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.
In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.

In San Francisco this week, more than 14,000 educators and education scholars have gathered for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The theme this year is familiar: Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?

If not the usual suspects, what’s going on? It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.

But we need to do much more than expand and improve preschool and child care. There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and “improving teacher quality,” but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents so they can better invest in their children.

The Competition Drug

Roger Cohen
THIS is America’s college town par excellence. Kids from all over the world flock to Boston to learn. I have a son who is a freshman here. Last autumn, as he entered school, I listened to warnings about the dangers of binge drinking. I think they missed the point. The real epidemic involves so-called smart drugs, particularly Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (A.D.H.D.) but so freely available as to be the pill to take whenever academic pressure requires pulling an all-nighter with zero procrastination to get a paper done.
“Just popped an Addie, so I’m good to go” — this sort of pretest attitude has become pervasive. Conversations with several students suggested Adderall was always available, costing from $2 to $5 a pill. Adderall has become to college what steroids are to baseball: an illicit performance enhancer for a fiercely competitive environment. What to say to doctors to get a prescription is now so widely known among students — “It’s like my thoughts are channel-surfing and I can’t stop” — as to have become a kind of joke.
“If there are no A.D.H.D. symptoms prior to college I have a very hard time writing a prescription,” Jill Kasper, a pediatrician, told me. “But if somebody wants a prescription for Adderall, they can find someone to give it to them.” The problem is that Adderall is dangerous, a Class 2 controlled substance like cocaine. While it has helped countless A.D.H.D. sufferers, it can also lead down a dark road of dependency, ever higher doses, fight-or-flight anxiety levels, sleeplessness and depression.
Here, in his own words, is the Adderall story of Steven Roderick, 24, a smart, soft-spoken, lost senior studying health science at the University of Massachusetts Boston:

I started taking it my first year in college. My performance had always fluctuated a lot. It was hard to pay attention, even in classes I was interested in. I was getting D’s. I felt something had to change. Adderall flies around campus. The first time I took it I wrote a paper for an astronomy class that was out of this world. I could not believe it — I was so inspired it made me want to be a doctor! I thought — oh my God! — this is the whole problem. You have the ability. You are intelligent. You just don’t have the link between intelligence and the capacity to be productive. The pill is the link. I felt literally unstoppable.
I went to the doctor, said I’d like to give Adderall a try. There were no diagnostic procedures. Doctors give in too easily. I did not think there could be a risk later on. I started on 20 milligrams. I went from D’s and F’s to straight A’s. But your brain adapts, you have to increase the dose, and by 2011 I was up to 45 milligrams. In the spring of that year I started to feel Adderall was my best friend and my worst enemy at the same time. Because I could not sleep I went to see my psychopharm, and she prescribed me Ativan to sleep. That worked O.K. for a while. But I really ran into trouble last year. I was up to 65 milligrams, and then during finals went to 80, even 120, milligrams, and I was just locked into this Adderall-Ativan cycle. My doctor seemed scatterbrained. She’d prescribe something but not follow up.
It’s a complicated dependency. I mean I never took Adderall to get high, never took it in a way that was not academically oriented; and I think there’s a distinction between dependency and addiction, taking something for a purpose or for a rush. But I feel awful. My baseline anxiety level would be most people’s highest anxiety level. The drop of a pin makes me spin around. I am living at home. My parents are clueless, and it is hard to discuss with them, although my Mom helps me now. I alternate between ‘on’ and ‘off’ states — I come off the Adderall, take Ativan and sleep for days. I miss appointments. I know I need to go to the appointments, but I wonder if I will be functional enough.
Adderall suddenly turned its back on me. It enabled me to focus, got me to a higher place academically. But then I could no longer rely on it. I was on my own. And although I have less than three credits to go, I may have to withdraw from school because I have not been able to make it to enough classes. “Look, I am in a culture that constantly justifies the means to an end. So how do we persuade people not to take it? All you hear is how impossible it will be to get a job when you get out, and you are going more and more into debt, and you think without this I won’t be top of the class. With other drugs you know you are ruining your life. But Adderall manipulates you into thinking you are doing what is needed to have a great life.

Stop Subsidizing Obesity

Mark Bittman

Not long ago few doctors – not even pediatricians – concerned themselves much with nutrition. This has changed, and dramatically: As childhood obesity gains recognition as a true health crisis, more and more doctors are publicly expressing alarm at the impact the standard American diet is having on health.
“I never saw Type 2 diabetes during my training, 20 years ago,” David Ludwig, a pediatrician, told me the other day, referring to what was once called “adult-onset” diabetes, the form that is often caused by obesity. “Never. Now about a quarter of the new diabetes cases we’re seeing are Type 2.”
Ludwig, who is director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center in Boston, is one of three authors, all medical doctors of an essay (“Viewpoint”) in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association titled “Opportunities to Reduce Childhood Hunger and Obesity.”
That title that would once have been impossible, but now it’s merely paradoxical. Because the situation is this: 17 percent of children in the United States are obese, 16 percent are food-insecure (this means they have inconsistent access to food), and some number, which is impossible to nail down, are both. Seven times as many poor children are obese as those who are underweight, an indication that government aid in the form of food stamps, now officially called SNAP, does a good job of addressing hunger but encourages the consumption of unhealthy calories.

Given the role that nutrition plays — from conception onward — in brain development, learning, etc., clearly this is an achievement gap issue.

‘Business as usual’ isn’t working for Madison schools

Nichelle Nichols:

I am running for the Madison School Board because I care about the state of our public schools and this community.
The facts are: I am employed at the Urban League of Greater Madison and spoke in support of Madison Prep as a parent and citizen. Am I running because Madison Prep was voted down? No. My focus is broader than the charter school proposal, but the Madison Prep vote was a defining moment in my decision to declare candidacy.
It became apparent to me as I sat in the auditorium that night that we can no longer afford to wait for our district to take the casual approach to the urgent matter of minority under-achievement. Our entire community is affected by the failure to do so.
Every child in this district — from the at-risk, the middle-of-the-road student, to the most academically talented — should have an equal opportunity to thrive in our school system. And here’s the reality, Madison — we are not delivering.
It’s been hard for us to accept that we are a different community than we were 10 years ago, but we are. If we move beyond politically correct conversations about race and poverty, we’d readily realize that we cannot go about “business as usual.”

The 2012 Madison School Board Contest:

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

Listen to the recent DCCPA candidate forum via this 75MB mp3 audio file.

American school kids trash Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Graeme Culliford and Nick Owens:

It was Jamie Oliver’s toughest challenge… getting US ­youngsters to ditch junk food and eat a healthier diet.
But six months after he ­convinced an LA school to swap fattening burgers for low-calorie salads, his ­revamped menu is – literally – being binned.
Hundreds of students at West Adams Preparatory High School, where his hit show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution was filmed, are ­refusing to eat his cuisine.
Instead, bins are overflowing with the TV chef’s veg curries, quinoa salads, Thai ­noodles and wheatbread burgers.
Many youngsters even go without lunch altogether.

Old-school system needs its own recess

Chris Rickert:

The Janesville Gazette reported last week that principals at some of the city’s public elementary school are attributing some major positive academic and behavioral trends to a relatively minor change: moving recess from after to before lunch.
I remember the post-lunch recess — chasing girls, pick-up football, the bloody nose I gave my best friend.
In fact, I remember school-day and school-year schedules being much the same as the ones my 5-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son experience at their Madison public elementary school — from the timing of recess, to summer vacation, to days off to honor such notables as Polish-born Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski (keep in mind this was the Chicago area, which has a large Polish population).
I suppose that could be because at some point decades ago, the public education establishment discovered the perfect academic schedule and, well, why tinker with something that works?
Janesville’s experience suggests something else, though: that post-lunch recess is just another public education tradition among a slew of public education traditions that could benefit from a fresh pair of eyes.

L.A. schools’ healthful lunch menu panned by students

Teresa Watanabe:

It’s lunchtime at Van Nuys High School and students stream into the cafeteria to check out the day’s fare: black bean burgers, tostada salad, fresh pears and other items on a new healthful menu introduced this year by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
But Iraides Renteria and Mayra Gutierrez don’t even bother to line up. Iraides said the school food previously made her throw up, and Mayra calls it “nasty, rotty stuff.” So what do they eat? The juniors pull three bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and soda from their backpacks.
“This is our daily lunch,” Iraides says. “We’re eating more junk food now than last year.”
For many students, L.A. Unified’s trailblazing introduction of healthful school lunches has been a flop. Earlier this year, the district got rid of chocolate and strawberry milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, nachos and other food high in fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, district chefs concocted such healthful alternatives as vegetarian curries and tamales, quinoa salads and pad Thai noodles.

How the Food Industry Eats Your Kid’s Lunch

Lucy Komisar:

An increasingly cozy alliance between companies that manufacture processed foods and companies that serve the meals is making students — a captive market — fat and sick while pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. At a time of fiscal austerity, these companies are seducing school administrators with promises to cut costs through privatization. Parents who want healthier meals, meanwhile, are outgunned.
Each day, 32 million children in the United States get lunch at schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, which uses agricultural surplus to feed children. About 21 million of these students eat free or reduced-price meals, a number that has surged since the recession. The program, which also provides breakfast, costs $13.3 billion a year.

Recipe for a revolution in school lunches Healthful offerings like saffron rice, Jerusalem salad and free-range chicken are a low-cost hit with low-income students.

Monica Eng:

For lunch, Josh Rivera chose a plate of saffron rice, Jerusalem salad and a Greek-marinated kebab of free-range chicken raised without antibiotics.
“Last year I used to get a burger and pizza, but they were really greasy,” the high school sophomore said. “This is a lot tastier than before.”
Lynn Vo, a sophomore who was eating organic fruit salad along with penne in a Bolognese sauce made with grass-fed beef, agreed. “Last year the pasta tasted like sweat,” she said. “But this year it’s really good.”
It’s astonishing enough that notoriously picky high schoolers would have something nice to say about their cafeteria, in this case the one at Niles North High School in Skokie, Ill., just north of Chicago. But these meals containing premium ingredients are provided free to low-income students or sold for $2.25 at most.

Reading, Writing And Roasting: Schools Bring Cooking Back Into The Classroom

Allison Aubrey:

Lots of kids have tried lentils. But what about Ethiopian-style lentils, accompanied by injera bread, couscous and cucumber salad?
Fourth graders in Santa Fe, N.M. prepared this lunch feast themselves as part of a nutrition education program called Cooking with Kids. And nutrition experts say programs like this one are not just about expanding timid kids’ palates.
Even as home economics classes have been phased out in recent years, some schools are bringing cooking back. And a new study that evaluates cooking curriculum says these hands-on classes do more than just prepare students to cook a decent meal.
“Teachers and principals are seeing how the classroom cooking experience helps support critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills,” says study author Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, a nutrition researcher at Colorado State University. The study appears this week in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Banning Sugary Soda From School Fails to Cut Teen Consumption, Study Finds

Nicole Ostrow:

Banning sugar-filled sodas from American schools as an effort to combat childhood obesity doesn’t reduce overall consumption levels of sweetened beverages, research found.
In U.S. states that banned only soda, about 30 percent of middle-school students still purchased sugary drinks like sports and fruit beverages at school, similar to states that had no policy, according to a study released online today in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. In states that banned all sugar-sweetened beverages, students still consumed the drinks outside of school, the researchers said.
Over the past 25 years, children have gotten more of their calories from sugary beverages and consumption of the drinks has been associated with childhood obesity and weight gain, the authors said. Today’s study is the first to look at whether efforts by states to curb these drinks really works, said Daniel Taber, the lead study author.

Schools rolling out new fundraisers: food truck nights

Angel Jennings:

Echo Lau drove to Whitney High School on a recent Monday evening to pick up her kids. She left with dinner.
The student parking lot at the Cerritos campus is transformed every week into a congested food truck stop as eight mobile eateries attract the business of loyal followers, parents and students.
But this isn’t a typical stop for these catering trucks; this is a school fundraiser, in which a portion of the proceeds go directly to Whitney to help pay for a new multi-media center.
Outdoor food courts are popping up in the parking lots of at least a dozen high schools across Southern California with more on the way. Financially strapped public schools — hit hard by budget cuts, new fundraising guidelines, and fewer donors — have found a way to capitalize on the food truck craze.

Diet soda linked to weight gain

Edward Martin:

If the FDA won’t go after diet sodas for all the dangerous chemicals they contain, maybe the FTC can take action for false advertising.
There’s nothing “diet” about diet sodas. After all, studies have linked them to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart problems, and more.
And now, yet another study confirms that people who drink the most diet soda have the biggest bellies.
Researchers from the University of Texas medical school examined data on 474 seniors who took part in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, and found that the waistlines of those who drank diet soda grew 70 percent more than those who didn’t drink the stuff during the average follow-up of nearly 10 years.
And the more they drank, the more they grew: The researchers say those who drank two or more diet sodas a day had five times the increase in belly size than those who drank no soda, according to the study presented at a recent American Diabetes Association meeting.

Denmark taxes fatty products

Richard Orange:

Denmark is to impose the world’s first “fat tax” in a drive to slim its population and cut heart disease.
The move may increase pressure for a similar tax in the UK, which suffers from the highest levels of obesity in Europe.
Starting from this Saturday, Danes will pay an extra 30p on each pack of butter, 8p on a pack of crisps, and an extra 13p on a pound of mince, as a result of the tax.
The tax is expected to raise about 2.2bn Danish Krone (£140m), and cut consumption of saturated fat by close to 10pc, and butter consumption by 15pc.
“It’s the first ever fat-tax,” said Mike Rayner, Director of Oxford University’s Health Promotion Research Group, who has long campaigned for taxes on unhealthy foods.

A New Law on School Fitness Data Faces Obstacles

Morgan Smith:

Texas children are fat — and getting fatter.
It is something state policy makers have known and have struggled to address for years. In the last decade, the Legislature has passed laws that set nutritional standards for school meals, required body mass index screenings for children and adolescents, and instituted physical activity requirements.
The latest effort came during this year’s legislative session with a bill passed by Senator Jane Nelson, Republican of Flower Mound, that allows a deeper study of schools’ fitness data.
Under the new law, researchers can access unidentified individual student data, which they say will help bolster aggregate analyses that already show correlations between physical fitness and academic performance, gang activity and absenteeism.

Alabama public schools turn to Wii to help fight childhood obesity

Marie Leech:

Ask most third-graders whether they’d rather run laps in hundred-degree temperatures or play a video game, and it doesn’t take a genius to correctly predict their answer.
What did take some brainpower, however, was figuring out how use that fondness for electronic games to get some of the same benefits as running.
Wee Can Fight Obesity is a fitness program for third-graders in Alabama public schools, and uses the Wii Fit Plus Bundle and EA Sports Active video games to improve physical fitness three days a week during P.E. class.
The one-year program is in 30 schools this year, and was in 30 different schools last year. The goal is to eventually offer the program to every elementary school.

The Great Candy Debate

sp-eye:

“Motivation is part of education and classroom teachers should have input because they are the ones doing the work. ”
“Not all candy purchases are used for motivation.”
“The question becomes do we want to be the food police in the schools. ”
“Teachers and principals might not understand why this issue is being pushed so hard. ”
—Administration Response to “Candy Purchases” issue (Minutes of the Finance Committee meeting 8-22-11)

Parents of seven told: Your children are too fat, so you will never see them again

Jane Simpson:

Four obese children are on the brink of being permanently removed from their family by social workers after their parents failed to bring their weight under control.
In the first case of its kind, their mother and father now face what they call the ‘unbearable’ likelihood of never seeing them again.
Their three daughters, aged 11, seven and one, and five-year-old son, will either be ‘fostered without contact’ or adopted.
Torn apart: The parents, far left and right, with six of their children who they fear will be taken away from them
Torn apart: The parents, far left and right, with six of their children who they fear will be taken away from them
Either way, the family’s only hope of being reunited will be if the children attempt to track down their parents when they become adults.
The couple, who have been married for nearly 20 years and are not being named to protect their children’s identities, were given a ‘draconian’ ultimatum three years ago – as reported at the time by The Mail on Sunday.
Warned that the children must slim or be placed in care, the family spent two years living in a council-funded ‘Big Brother’ house in which they were constantly supervised and the food they ate monitored.

Seoul School Lunch Vote to Test Sentiment on Welfare

Evan Ramstad:

A municipal vote in Seoul on Wednesday over free school lunches is shaping up as a test of South Koreans’ sentiment on government welfare spending, and the outcome is expected to influence races in parliamentary and presidential elections next year.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, a member of the conservative Grand National Party that controls the Parliament and presidency, pushed for the referendum as a challenge to the city council’s decision to expand a free-lunch program.
The council, which is controlled by the opposition Democratic Party, earlier this year voted to provide free school lunches to all of Seoul’s 850,000 elementary and middle-school students, at a cost of about $378 million a year. Supporters of the free-lunches-for-all policy say it removes the stigma that recipients of free lunches face.

A New Tactic To Encourage Mothers To Breast-Feed

Shirley Wang:

Public-health officials are shifting tactics in an effort to encourage more women to breast-feed their babies–they are pushing hospitals to change their maternity practices.
The percentage of women who breast-feed is well below public-health goals, according to recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals are key to encouraging breast-feeding because the steps taken immediately after birth are essential to help women establish an adequate milk supply and effective nursing practices. If a woman doesn’t really try breast-feeding until a week after giving birth, she probably won’t be successful, experts say.
“What happens in the first three days can make or break your breast-feeding success,” says Jane Morton, a pediatrician at Burgess Pediatrics in Menlo Park, Calif., who helped develop a breast-feeding medicine program at Stanford University.

McDonald’s to Make Nutrition Push

Melodie Warner:

McDonald’s Corp. plans to promote more nutritional options, such as automatically including fruit or a low-fat dairy option in every Happy Meal.
The fast-food giant said the new Happy Meal, being rolled out in September, will have about 20% fewer calories and less fat.
The company also will promote nutrition in its national kids’ advertising and Happy Meal packaging.
Childhood obesity is a growing concern in the U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her mission to promote environments that support healthy choices through her “Let’s Move” initiative.

State bans unhealthy food sales in schools

Kay Lazar:

Sugary soft drinks, diet sodas, and artery-clogging food will be a thing of the past at Massachusetts public school snack shops, vending machines, and a la carte cafeteria lines under rules unanimously approved yesterday by state health regulators.
The nutrition standards adopted by the Public Health Council take effect in the 2012-2013 school year and are believed by advocates to be among the most comprehensive in the country.
But the council – an appointed panel of doctors, consumer advocates, and professors – delayed a ban on sweetened, flavored milk until August 2013 to give schools more time to find other ways to encourage children to drink milk.

Long live the fat American Obesity may threaten life expectancy. Or maybe not

The Economist:

AMERICA’S obesity epidemic is so called for a reason. Roughly one in three adults is obese. In 2008 close to 25m Americans were diabetic, according to a study published on June 25th. Nevertheless, Americans are living longer than ever. In 2007 the average life expectancy at birth was 78 years. This follows decades of progress. The question is whether obesity might change that.
National progress in life expectancy masks wide local disparities, according to a study published on June 15th and written by researchers at the University of Washington and Imperial College London. Men in Holmes County, Mississippi, for example, have a life expectancy of 65.9 years, the same as men in Pakistan and 15.2 years behind men in Fairfax, Virginia. Gaps between America’s counties have widened since the early 1980s. Most alarming, 702 counties, or 30% of those studied, saw a statistically significant decline in life expectancy for women from 2000 to 2007; 251 counties saw a statistically significant decline for men.

School Spotlight: Oregon Middle School greenhouse will supply students with veggies

Pamela Cotant:

The locally grown movement has reached Oregon Middle School where vegetables grown over the summer in its new hoop-style greenhouse will be served to students when classes resume.
“We wanted to get some things cranked up so in the fall we can pull off our first salad in the cafeteria,” said Nate Mahr, eighth-grade science teacher.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, watermelon and pumpkins have been started. Salad greens will be grown right when students come back and raspberries also will be planted in the fall.
“(We’re) trying to have some of the food locally produced,” said Darren Hartberg, eighth grade health teacher. “That’s what will be happening under this piece of plastic.”

CDC: 1 in 4 high schoolers drink soda every day

Mike Stobbe:

A new study shows one in four high school students drink soda every day — a sign fewer teens are downing the sugary drinks.
The study also found teens drink water, milk and fruit juices most often – a pleasant surprise, because researchers weren’t certain that was the case.
“We were very pleased to see that,” said the study’s lead author, Nancy Bener of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, a quarter have at least one soda each day. And when other sugary drinks like Gatorade are also counted, the figure is closer to two-thirds of high school students drinking a sweetened beverage every day.
That’s less than in the past. In the 1990s and early 2000s, more than three-quarters of teens were having a sugary drink each day, according to earlier research.

L.A. Becomes First Big School District To Ban Chocolate Milk

Aprl Fulton:

In the battle for nutrition bragging rights, Los Angeles has beat New York — at least when it comes to scratching chocolate milk and other less-healthful items from the school lunch menu.
Yesterday, the Los Angeles Unified School District voted 5-2 on a new dairy contract to remove flavored milk from school menus, the Los Angeles Times reports. The district also banned sodas and chicken nuggets recently in its battle against childhood obesity. “By the fall the district will be a national leader,” Matthew Sharp, with California Food Policy Advocates, tells the Times.
But the question is, will kids reach for the plain stuff?

Skin patch could cure peanut allergy

The UK Telegraph:

A revolutionary skin patch that may cure thousands of deadly peanut allergy has been developed by paediatricans.
Researchers believe it presents one of the best possible ways of finding an effective treatment for a life threatening reaction to peanuts.
Developed by two leading paediatricians the device releases minute doses of peanut oil under the skin.
The aim is to educate the body so it doesnt over-react to peanut exposure.
Human safety trials have started in Europe and the United States and it is hoped that the patch could become become available within 3-4 years.
One of its two French inventors, Dr Pierre-Henri Benhamou, said: We envisage that the patch would be worn daily for several years and would slowly reduce the severity of accidental exposure to peanut.

Food Is Political Says Outspoken Chef Alice Waters

The Wall Street Journal:

According to food revolutionary Alice Waters, what we choose to eat says as much about our values as the way we vote. In an interview with WSJ’s Alan Murray, the author and chef outlines her vision for thoughtful eating and sustainable farming, while accusing corporations of having little interest in health and nutrition.

Ill. lawmaker says raising obese kids should cost parents at tax time

Hannah Hess:

An Illinois lawmaker says parents who have obese children should lose their state tax deduction.
“It’s the parents’ responsibility that have obese kids,” said state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga. “Take the tax deduction away for parents that have obese kids.”
Cultra has not introduced legislation to deny parents the $2,000 standard tax deduction, but he floated the idea Tuesday, when lawmakers took a shot at solving the state’s obesity epidemic.
With one in five Illinois children classified as obese and 62 percent of the state’s adults considered overweight, health advocates are pushing a platter of diet solutions including trans fat bans and restricting junk food purchases on food stamps.
Today, the Senate Public Health Committee considered taxing sugary beverages at a penny-per-ounce, in effect applying the same theory to soda, juices and energy drinks that governs to liquor sales. Health advocates say a sin tax could discourage consumption, but lawmakers are reluctant to target an industry supports the jobs of more than 40,000 Illinoisans.
“It seems like we just, we go after the low-hanging fruit, where its easy to get,” said state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. He said the state needs to form a comprehensive plan to address physical fitness and disease prevention, rather than taking aim at sugary drinks.

Chocolate Milk on School Menus Under Scrutiny

Raven Clabough:

Does the Nanny State have no bounds? Apparently not, as even beverages are at risk. The newest example of “government knows best” can be found in public schools, where chocolate milk is soon to be banned in an effort to target childhood obesity.
MSNBC reports, “With schools under increasing pressure to offer healthier food, the staple on children’s cafeteria trays has come under attack over the very ingredient that made it so popular-sugar.”
Some school districts have already moved towards removing flavored milk from the menu. Others have sought milk products that are flavored with sugar, a healthier alternative to high-fructose corn syrup.
In the state of Florida, the Board of Education is currently considering a statewide ban of chocolate milk in schools. School boards in Washington, D.C., and Berkeley, California, have already done so. Similarly, Los Angeles Unified’s Superintendent John Deasy has announced plans to push for the removal of chocolate and strawberry milk from school menus.

Combining exercise with school lessons could boost brain power

Jeannine Stein:

Physical education classes may be scarce in some schools, but an activity program combined with school lessons could boost academic performance, a study finds.
Research presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Denver looked at the effects of a 40-minute-a-day, five-day-a-week physical activity program on test scores of first- through sixth-graders at a public school. This program was a little different from most, since it incorporated academic lessons along with exercise.
For example, younger children hopped through ladders while naming colors found on each rung. Older children climbed on a rock wall outfitted with numbers that challenged their math skills. The students normally spent 40 minutes a week in PE class.

LAUSD to remove chocolate, strawberry milk from schools, superintendent says

Howard Blume:

Los Angeles schools will remove high-sugar chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk from their lunch and breakfast menus after food activists campaigned for the change, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy announced this week.
Deasy revealed his intent, which will require approval by the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, during an appearance with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Tuesday night.
The policy change is part of a carefully negotiated happy ending between the Los Angeles Unified School District and Oliver. The chef’s confrontations with the school system became a main theme in the current season of the TV reality show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”
The timing of the flavored-milk ban, which had been under consideration for some time, gave Oliver a positive outcome and allowed the nation’s second-largest school system to escape the villain’s role. Deasy quickly alerted the school board to the deal before going on television.

Out Front in the Fight on Fat

Betsy McKay:

How Portland, Maine Took a Stand Against Childhood Obesity. It Spent $3.7 Million to Rally Schools and Other Sites in the State. More Families Adopted 5-2-1-0 a Day: At Least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables , 2 Hours or Less of Screen Time, at Least 1 Hour of Exercise, and 0 Sugary Drinks. After All That, the Childhood Overweight-and-Obesity Rate for Southern Maine Dipped 1.5 Percentage Points to 31.3%.
At first, it seems obvious: Recess and fruit keep kids trimmer and healthier than videogames and cookies. But there isn’t much that’s obvious about moving the needle on childhood obesity rates in the U.S.
Nine year-old Ayub Mohamud was gaining weight rapidly when he went to see his doctor at a pediatric clinic here in September. At home, Ayub and his four siblings snacked regularly on candy, chips and soda; a younger brother also was overweight. Ayub ate two breakfasts, one at home and one at school, and got little exercise during the long Maine winters. He had a dark skin coloring on the back of his neck called “acanthosis nigricans,” which can be a sign of being prediabetic.
By the end of January, after implementing some of Portland’s 5-2-1-0 principles, Ayub had lost three pounds. His mother stopped buying a lot of candy, soda, and chips, and Ayub started eating carrots and broccoli. He and his 7-year-old brother were competing to do push-ups and sit-ups or try new foods. “I like it,” Ayub says of his healthier new life.

The Unwise War Against Chocolate Milk

Jen Singer:

One by one, the children trooped to our table and put their apples in front of my son. By the fourth apple, I asked Christopher–my date for “Lunch with Your Second Grader” at the local elementary school in Kinnelon, N.J.–what was going on.
“Oh, they don’t like the apples that come with lunch, so they give them to me,” he reported, shrugging. “I can’t eat them all.”
I’m the mother of two boys, now middle-schoolers, one a good eater and one who would live on pizza and root beer if I let him. Christopher eats apples, and Nicholas leaves his on the lunch tray. He’s the one who needs his chocolate milk. Yes, chocolate.
And so it was disturbing to hear about the recent chocolate milk ban in the Fairfax County, Va., school system and elsewhere around the country. Ditching chocolate milk to cut down on our children’s sugar intake might be the right sentiment, but it’s the wrong solution.

Food for thought on MPS workers

Terry Falk:

Two retired sanitation workers from Memphis stood proudly before the assembly gathered at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Milwaukee the Friday before the April 5 election. The Rev. Jesse Jackson made sure the message was clear. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for these workers when they went on strike in Memphis in 1968. Now those assembled were to march in King’s honor and vote for candidates who supported a basic civil right: collective bargaining.
Opponents of labor unions have cleverly made this budget battle a choice between workers and taxpayers, workers and children, workers and just about everything else. But these are false choices, and nowhere is this better illustrated than the attack on the Milwaukee Public Schools food service workers.
A high percentage of food service workers are black and Latino at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Like the sanitation workers in Memphis, school food service workers see themselves fighting for their civil rights. The false choice is that money saved from the cuts in pay and benefits could be used to help fund kindergarten or lower class sizes.

Chicago school bans some lunches brought from home

Monica Eng and Joel Hood:

Fernando Dominguez cut the figure of a young revolutionary leader during a recent lunch period at his elementary school.
“Who thinks the lunch is not good enough?” the seventh-grader shouted to his lunch mates in Spanish and English.
Dozens of hands flew in the air and fellow students shouted along: “We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch!”
Fernando waved his hand over the crowd and asked a visiting reporter: “Do you see the situation?”

Why U.S. School Kids Are Flunking Lunch

Jamie Oliver:

I spent the first two months of 2011 living in Los Angeles, filming the second season of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” for ABC. After last year’s experience of trying to change food culture in the beautiful town of Huntington, West Virginia, I expected the challenges in L.A. to be very different. Shockingly, they were all too familiar.
L.A. is home to the nation’s second biggest school district, which feeds 650,000 children every day. Half of these kids are eligible for free school meals. Within a few miles of the Hollywood sign there are entire communities with no access to fresh food. People travel for well over an hour to buy fruits and vegetables, and in one of the communities where I worked, children had an 80% obesity rate.
I had planned to work in the L.A. schools to try to figure out how school food could be better–and, ideally, cooked from scratch. Thousands of outraged parents, not to mention teachers and principals, wanted me in their schools. But I couldn’t even get in the door: the Los Angeles Unified School District banned me from filming any of their food service operations, claiming that they didn’t need me because they were already leading the charge. [You can read the LAUSD’s response here.]

Poisoned milk kills 3 children, dozens ill

Zhuang Pinghui:

Three children in Pingliang, Gansu, have died and 36 others have fallen ill from nitrite poisoning after drinking milk bought direct from farmers.
Pingliang’s No2 People’s Hospital recorded the first food-poisoning death around 9am on Thursday and another hospital recorded two similar deaths shortly afterwards.
“The three dead children were all under three years old. The rest of the patients were mostly children under 14 years old,” a Pingliang government spokesman said.

Time for a change: Susan Schmidt is a newcomer who is well-informed about what makes for successful schools. She appears ready to make the tough decisions needed to get the Milwaukee School district on track.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Milwaukee School Board needs fresh ideas, which is why we favor newcomer Susan Schmidt over Terry Falk for the at-large seat on Tuesday’s ballot.
Schmidt, 49, a single parent of two, is well-informed about what makes for successful schools, having visited and worked with a number of Milwaukee Public Schools and charter and choice schools.
Through her work with the nonprofit Scooter Foundation, established after her brother was shot and killed in Milwaukee in 2005, Schmidt opposes expanding choice beyond poor students. She believes the district needs to be more fiscally responsible. She said the board has a history of putting the needs of adults ahead of students.
The board’s reluctance to allow Superintendent Gregory Thornton to explore the idea of outsourcing food service to save the district money is a prime example of the board’s lack of leadership.

Bill bans trans fats in schools

Associated Press:

A bill that would ban trans fats in Nevada public schools got support from health advocates and some mild opposition from administrators who don’t want to be food police.
A Senate committee on Friday heard Senate Bill 230, which bans trans fats from vending machines, student stores, and school activities. The current bill version exempts school lunches, but pending rules through the national school lunch program would ban trans fats there, too.
Trans fats raise levels of harmful cholesterol and decrease levels of healthy cholesterol. They are common in processed snack foods, fried foods and baked goods.

Misplaced Priorities At a Session on Chicago Schools

James Warren:

Terry Mazany, interim chief of Chicago Public Schools, was like a baseball manager beckoning a star relief pitcher an inning early to hold a lead. Rather than Mariano Rivera, he waved in Kate Maehr to last week’s Board of Education meeting.
He had opened an ultimately melancholy session dominated by budget woes by suddenly and without explanation defending the Breakfast in the Classroom program, quietly pushed through in January.
The defense was due partly to an earlier mention in this column that generated lots of “Huh, are they serious?” responses among parents and others, according to board officials. The program mandates that the first instructional class open with pupils having breakfast at their desks, even at schools already offering pre-class breakfast.

Changes Schools Should Make to Better Serve Students: A Student’s View

Adora Svitak
My mom once asked me about the first steps I would hypothetically take to make a “better school.” I don’t claim to be an education expert, but I do have personal opinions about the ideal school — one I’d like to go to. Among many other things, I said that I would change school starting times, improve cafeteria lunches, and bring back recess. These would be good first steps because they help a lot of students a little bit. And they can have wide-reaching impacts.
Starting Times
Studies have repeatedly shown that everyone, especially children with developing brains, need a good amount of high-quality sleep. It’s difficult to get when you have to worry about waking up at 7 in the morning to go to school. Not everyone is a morning lark, and by starting school so early, not only students but also educators have to stave off yawns throughout the day.
I was at a conference where a well-respected sleep researcher, Dr. James Maas, revealed that adolescent sleep cycles tend to begin at 3 a.m. and end at 11 a.m. Yet we’re starting school at 7 or 7:30 a.m. While I wouldn’t quite change school start times to 11 a.m. (since we have to consider parents who have to go to work), I think it would be reasonable to move them to 8:45 AM or after. Then hypothetically a teenager could go to bed at 12 a.m. (as many often do), wake up at 8, shower and eat breakfast, and go to school with eight rather than five or six hours of sleep.
Lunch
Another step: improve cafeteria lunches. Put a cap on the amount of sodium, fat, and calorie content allowed in each lunch. Mandate nonfat or 1 to 2 percent milk (and in smaller containers — who really drinks that much milk?) instead of whole milk. Get rid of chocolate milk, soft drinks, and vending machines with unhealthy items. Require a certain percentage of food served be organic and/or local, and have smaller portions to help minimize cost (we all know how much food gets dumped out). Have the school’s cooking classes (or maybe the entire student body) help make lunch on certain days.
A bigger step: I think it would be a good idea to have randomly assigned seating during lunch. This might be controversial among students, but the social division that occurs when students simply pick out where they want to sit can be hurtful and exclusive to students new to the school or children with difficulty making friends. Also, it seems that teachers rarely eat lunch and converse with the students. I’ve learned a lot from being able to have conversations with adults. So, teachers would be required to eat lunch with the students — at least on certain days — (and really, if they really can’t stand students to the extent that they can’t eat with them, should they be teaching?)

Continue reading

You can lead kids to broccoli, but you can’t make them eat

Monica Eng:

Anyone who has ever tried to sneak healthy food into kids’ lunches knows what Chicago Public Schools is going through.
Sometimes kids openly embrace the new food. Sometimes they eat it without realizing the difference. And sometimes they refuse it altogether.
CPS has met with all three reactions this school year, when it stopped serving daily nachos, Pop-Tarts and doughnuts and introduced healthier options at breakfast and lunch. But in a sign of how challenging this transition can be for schools, district figures show that lunch sales for September through December dropped by about 5 percentage points since the previous year, or more than 20,000 lunches a day.

Childhood: Obesity and School Lunches

Roni Caryn Rabin:

A study of more than 1,000 sixth graders in several schools in southeastern Michigan found that those who regularly had the school lunch were 29 percent more likely to be obese than those who brought lunch from home.
Spending two or more hours a day watching television or playing video games also increased the risk of obesity, but by only 19 percent.
Of the 142 obese children in the study for whom dietary information was known, almost half were school-lunch regulars, compared with only one-third of the 787 who were not obese.
“Most school lunches rely heavily on high-energy, low-nutrient-value food, because it’s cheaper,” said Dr. Kim A. Eagle, director of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, and senior author of the paper, published in the December issue of American Heart Journal. In some schools where the study was done, lunch programs offered specials like “Tater Tot Day,” he said.

Jamie Oliver Still at Odds With Los Angeles Schools

Anne Louise Bannon:

A little over two weeks after celebrity cook Jamie Oliver started shooting the second season of his Food Revolution reality TV show at the Westwood-based Jamie’s Kitchen, the Los Angeles Unified School District remains at odds with the production company about letting the show shoot in district schools.
However, Robert Alaniz, spokesperson for the district said that officials have been meeting with Oliver’s team.
“He’d be more than welcome, but sans cameras,” Alaniz said, adding that district officials simply believe that the school district is no place for a reality television show.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, of ‘Food Revolution’ fame, speaks to California school nutritionists

Mary MacVean:

Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef who is beating the drums for a school lunch revolution, received a warm reception this weekend from hundreds of the people who make and serve food to children every day. It’s the Los Angeles Unified School District that isn’t so welcoming.
“I’m going to be honest. I’m actually petrified,” Oliver said as he started his keynote address Saturday at the annual meeting of the California School Nutrition Assn. at the Pasadena Convention Center.
Perhaps he feared the “lunch ladies” might not be happy to hear from the man who clashed with their colleagues in Huntington, W.Va., last year on “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” But he was applauded several times.

Vendors of healthful food target schools

Nick Leiber:

Jeff Lowell, an assistant principal at Interlake High School in Bellevue, Wash., normally dismisses the e-mails he gets from businesses trying to sell to his 1,500 students.
He was intrigued, however, by the pitch he received in September from Fresh Healthy Vending, a San Diego franchise operation that offers vending machines stocked with snacks and drinks it touts as alternatives to junk food.
“Everybody (understands) what eating right does for you and how much it ends up affecting your ability to think,” Lowell says. “We decided we wanted to try it.”
Lowell signed a one-year contract allowing Fresh Healthy to park its machines near Interlake’s gym in exchange for 15 percent of profits. In late November, Fresh Healthy installed three machines, featuring goodies such as Kashi granola bars and Stonyfield Farm fruit smoothies, next to older machines that sell Powerade and Dasani water. The top seller in the new machines so far: Pirate’s Booty cheese puffs.

The Mayor Wants You to Lose Some Weight

Laura Landro

Frustrated with the high cost of health care, a number of communities around the country are taking new steps to push citizens to improve their health.
Some places have set 10-year goals to reach certain marks of good health. In San Francisco, for example, 79% of small children currently are fully immunized by the time they turn 2 years old; the county aims to increase that to 90% by 2020. Other places, like Kern County, Calif., which has one of the highest rates of obesity and heart disease in the state, are setting up farmers’ markets and constructing new trails and sidewalks to foster healthier lifestyles.

Fat China: How Expanding Waistlines are Changing a Nation

Paul French and Matthew Crabbe:

An analysis of the growing problem of obesity in China and its relationship to the nation’s changing diet, lifestyle trends and healthcare system.
‘When Deng Xiaoping said ‘To get rich is glorious’, he probably didn’t realize that getting wealthy would make many Chinese fat… In an informative and entertaining style, French and Crabbe reveal the dark side of China’s growing middle-class: a fast increase in obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes. A great read on an important topic.’ Andy Rothman, China economist, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, Shanghai
‘In this remarkably well researched and thought-provoking book, French and Crabbe expose a darker side of globalisation in China… Western multinationalists have submerged the Chinese consumer in a sea of chocolate and ice cream. The consequences for public health are incalculable.’ –Tim Clissold, China investment specialist and author of ‘Mr China’
‘While some people around the world agonize about the rapid spread of China’s global influence, others within China are more worried about the spread of the country’s waistlines – or at least they should be, according to this fascinating and exhaustively researched study by Paul French and Matthew Crabbe. By turns colourful, witty and alarming, this book provides fascinating insights into China’s fast-changing society.’ –Duncan Hewitt, Shanghai correspondent for ‘Newsweek’ and author of ‘Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China’

Obese German children ‘should face’ classroom weigh-ins

Alan Hall:

Germany’s main school teaching body has called for classroom weigh-ins and the enforced removal of ultra-overweight pupils to combat rising obesity in society.
Josef Kraus, the DL teaching federation president, said: “When parents don’t make sure their children eat healthily and get enough exercise, then it can be the beginning of child abuse in extreme cases.” He said school doctors should take a more active role and conduct regular consultations and weight measurements of students. The should also report problem cases to authorities.
“When parental notices about overweight children are thrown to the wind, then youth services must be contacted and as a last resort there should be cuts to their parental benefits or welfare,” Mr Kraus said.
His remarks follow the release of official figures which showed that 51 per cent of Germans are considered overweight. Sixty per cent of men and 43 per cent of women have a Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measure calculated by body weight and height – of more than 25, up from 56 per cent and 40 per cent respectively in 1999.

Happy Meals lawsuit is beyond stupid

Roland Martin:

As a strong proponent of parental responsibility, it both amuses and angers me to see some parents lining up behind an initiative to sue McDonald’s over the inclusion of toys in their Happy Meals.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is leading the charge in this case by pushing the state of California to ban the toys. The group suggests that the toys in Happy Meals are inducing children to eat the burger and fries, thus contributing to the obesity epidemic in America.
As I asserted in a past column that supported first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, I fully back efforts to end obesity among our children. But at what point do some folks use common sense?

Save the Children Breaks With Soda Tax Effort

William Neuman:

Over the last year, Save the Children emerged as a leader in the push to tax sweetened soft drinks as a way to combat childhood obesity. The nonprofit group supported soda tax campaigns in Mississippi, New Mexico, Washington State, Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.
At the same time, executives at Save the Children were seeking a major grant from Coca-Cola to help finance the health and education programs that the charity conducts here and abroad, including its work on childhood obesity.
The talks with Coke are still going on. But the soda tax work has been stopped. In October, Save the Children surprised activists around the country with an e-mail message announcing that it would no longer support efforts to tax soft drinks.
In interviews this month, Carolyn Miles, chief operating officer of Save the Children, said there was no connection between the group’s about-face on soda taxes and the discussions with Coke. A $5 million grant from PepsiCo also had no influence on the decision, she said. Both companies fiercely oppose soda taxes.

McDonald’s chief attacks children’s meal ‘food police’

Greg Farrell and Hal Weitzman

The chief executive of McDonald’s has described critics of the company who have tried to curtail the sale of Happy Meals aimed at children as “food police” and accused them of undermining parents in making decisions for their families.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Jim Skinner responded to last month’s vote by the San Francisco board of supervisors to forbid restaurants from offering toys with meals unless the food complied with limits on calories, sodium, sugar and fat.
“We’ll continue to sell Happy Meals,” said Mr Skinner, in the face of a ban that does not become effective until December 2011. The new rule “really takes personal choice away from families who are more than capable of making their own decisions”.

My healthy school lunch idea: turkey brats and low-fat cheese curds

Chris Rickert

Mom’s admonishment still rings true today, with only minor adjustment: “Starving children in North Korea would be happy to have that beef and bean burrito.”
Or, as it’s known in the Madison School District, the least popular lunch among students this past October and a poster child for the dilemma faced by lunch ladies across this land of plenty: How to get children to eat things that are good for their bodies, not just pleasing to their tongues.
The irony in trying to solve this problem — also known as a “blessing” in food-deprived parts of the world — is so old as to be left unmentioned. I mention it here only as a reminder that in our free-flowing-capital-and-consumer-products global economy, we still can’t manage to keep kids from starving to death.
In any case, my first reaction to the healthy choices conundrum was simple: Let them go hungry.

School officials weigh benefits with costs of healthy meal options

Gena Kittner & Matthew DeFour:

Healthier lunches are coming with a heftier price tag as school districts struggle to get students to buy meals rich in green produce and whole grains yet short on sugar, fat and salt.
The dilemma has added urgency as Madison and Dane County parents become increasingly vocal in urging better food in the lunch line. Districts are getting creative, making pizzas with wheat crusts and low-fat cheese, for example. But that only goes so far, officials said.
“Try as we might, there are some kids who are not going to eat raw broccoli,” said Robyn Wood, food services director for the Oregon School District, which ran a $50,000 deficit last school year in its $1.5 million lunch program. “They’re not going to buy an apple over a cookie. We serve apples at the high school and kids leave campus and buy cookies.”
The Madison School District has experienced a 35 percent reduction in revenue for its a la carte menu in the past five years after healthier options were introduced as part of a new wellness policy, said Food Services Director Frank Kelly.

Hold the brownies! Bill could limit bake sales

Mary Clare Jalonick

A child nutrition bill on its way to President Barack Obama — and championed by the first lady — gives the government power to limit school bake sales and other fundraisers that health advocates say sometimes replace wholesome meals in the lunchroom.
Republicans, notably Sarah Palin, and public school organizations decry the bill as an unnecessary intrusion on a common practice often used to raise money.
“This could be a real train wreck for school districts,” Lucy Gettman of the National School Boards Association said Friday, a day after the House cleared the bill. “The federal government should not be in the business of regulating this kind of activity at the local level.”

Is Federal Government Meddling Into Schools With Child Nutrition Bill?

Huma Khan

The House of Representatives today delayed a vote on the $4.5 billion child nutrition bill that would ban greasy food and sugary soft drinks from schools. The legislation has triggered criticism for its hefty price tag and new nutritional requirements that some say shouldn’t come from the federal government.
The bill is expected to be brought up later this week.
The legislation has the support of the White House and first lady Michelle Obama, who has made childhood obesity a central focus.
The Senate bill, which passed with unanimous bipartisan consent in August, would expand eligibility for school lunch programs, establish nutrition standards for all school meals, and encourage schools to use locally produced food. It would also raise the reimbursement rate to six cents per meal, marking the first time in over 30 years that Congress has increased funding for school lunch programs.

Pasco County school menus

St. Petersburg Times

Elementary breakfasts
All elementary breakfasts include a choice of one main fare item, one fruit or 100 percent fruit juice and one milk choice plus an option for cereal with graham crackers.
Monday: Whole wheat cinnamon bun or yogurt with graham crackers.
Tuesday: Breakfast burrito or Zac Omega bar.
Wednesday: Breakfast pizza or muffin loaf with cheese.

Pasco County Schools.

Sweet drinks widely available in schools: study

Julie Steenhuysen

Despite efforts to limit their availability, public elementary school students in the United States have more outlets to buy unhealthy beverages at school, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
Over a three-year period ending in 2009, more students could buy sweetened beverages like sodas, higher-fat milk and sports beverages from vending machines and school stores, they said. Such drinks are a major source of calories, and removing them from schools could help curb the nation’s obesity epidemic.
“Elementary school students are still surrounded by a variety of unhealthy beverages while at school,” said Lindsey Turner of the University of Illinois at Chicago, whose study appears in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Thompson gets taste of Milwaukee Public Schools’ food fight

Alan Borsuk

This certainly is an education for me,” Gregory Thornton, superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, told School Board members as he watched them chew up the first controversial matter that has come before the board since Thornton took office July 1.
The issue involved was not the biggest one MPS will face. There are lots more difficult decisions coming up as the economic problems of the school system accelerate.
But the way the board majority came down on this issue definitely sent messages.
For some, such as union members, the main message was a reassuring one; for others, such as some MPS administrators and some business and civic leaders, the message was an alarming one.
The issue, in a nutshell: Thornton, who has emphasized the need to make MPS a well-run business, thought the system’s leaders should find out what all the options are for the future of a food service operation that provides about 100,000 meals a day.

How committed to healthy choices is the Madison school district really?

At last month’s Food for Thought Festival in Madison, Martha Pings attended a panel discussion titled “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children.” Among the panelists was Frank Kelly, director of food services for the Madison school district, who spoke of his desire to provide kids with nutritious food.
Two weeks later, Pings’ daughter came home from O’Keeffe Middle School on Madison’s east side with news that the cafeteria had a new a la carte option: a slushie machine.
The machine drew a backlash from Pings and other O’Keeffe parents, and last week was removed from the school at the request of the principal, Kay Enright (see article, 10/21/10). “I wish they would have asked me to begin with,” says Enright, who agrees the slushies were not “a healthy addition to our menu of choices.”
But there are larger issues here, as Pings, a member of Madison Families for Better Nutrition, related in a letter to school officials posted on the group’s website.

Long Beach schoolchildren are a model for healthy eating

Mary MacVean

The mayor, a congresswoman, a county supervisor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were on hand Tuesday for the unveiling of a new salad bar at Fremont Elementary School and to see the organic garden.
At least for one day, the students at Fremont Elementary School in Long Beach could be heard chanting, “Salad! Salad! Salad!” before lunch Tuesday.
Maybe it helped that they had an audience, including their principal, the Long Beach mayor, a congresswoman, a county supervisor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
And maybe it helps that teachers and food services staff, parents and a volunteer chef had all worked to put the salad bar in place and will help keep it going.

Yikes! Kids to judge healthy food options

Susan Troller

The REAP Food Group will stage what sounds like a pretty daunting culinary challenge that should be fun to watch at its Food for Thought Festival at the end of September. On Saturday, Sept. 24, three local chefs will join three local school principals as kitchen collaborators, working together to plan and prepare a healthy, nutritious, child-friendly meal that will be judged by the harshest critics around: school age kids themselves.
And that’s not all. The intrepid cooks must do it all on a budget, under a deadline and in front of an audience. School cooks would say it’s almost as hard as what they face daily in the lunchroom.
“I know they will be hard on us,” chef Steve Eriksen says of the young judges. Eriksen is one of the contestants and associate team leader for the kitchen at Madison’s Whole Foods grocery store. “What you get out of children’s mouths is brutal honesty.”
But Eriksen says he has a secret weapon as he prepares for the competition: his 3-year-old daughter, Ella, who is a picky eater. “If we can make something that I think Ella will eat, any kid will like it,” he says with a grin.

Ann Cooper’s latest tool in the Food Revolution

TED

Food Revolution hero Ann Cooper recently re-launched her new and improved website for The Lunch Box — a collection of scalable recipes, resources and general information to turn any school lunch system into a healthy, balanced diet for kids. One of the most exciting initiatives of this revamp is the Great American Salad Project (GASP) which, in partnership with Whole Foods, will create salad bars in over 300 schools across America. The new salad bars will give young students daily access to the fresh fruits and vegetables they need, and will be funded by donations from Whole Foods shoppers and visitors to the website. To donate, click here.
Schools can begin grant applications on September 1. If you’d like to see a fresh salad bar in your cafeteria, click here to review the process and get your app ready.

Growing Power’s National-International Urban & Small Farm Conference

via a kind reader’s email:

Come to Milwaukee and help grow the good food revolution. Hosted by Growing Power–a national organization headed by the sustainable urban farmer and MacArthur Fellow Will Allen–this international conference will teach the participant how to plan, develop and grow small farms in urban and rural areas. Learn how you can grow food year-round, no matter what the climate, and how you can build markets for small farms. See how you can play a part in creating a new food system that fosters better health and more closely-knit communities.

The Decline in Student Study Time

Philip Babcok & Mindy:

In 1961, the average full-time student at a four-year college in the United States studied about twenty-four hours per week, while his modern counterpart puts in only fourteen hours per week. Students now study less than half as much as universities claim to require. This dramatic decline in study time occurred for students from all demographic subgroups, for students who worked and those who did not, within every major, and at four-year colleges of every type, degree structure, and level of selectivity. Most of the decline predates the innovations in technology that are most relevant to education and thus was not driven by such changes. The most plausible explanation for these findings, we conclude, is that standards have fallen at postsecondary institutions in the United States.
Key points in this Outlook:

  • Study time for full-time students at four-year colleges in the United States fell from twenty-four hours per week in 1961 to fourteen hours per week in 2003, and the decline is not explained by changes over time in student work status, parental education, major choice, or the type of institution students attended.
  • Evidence that declines in study time result from improvements in education technology is slim. A more plausible explanation is that achievement standards have fallen.
  • Longitudinal data indicate that students who study more in college earn more in the long run.

National Cholesterol Education Program might update treatment recommendations

Melissa Healy:

In the next year or so, the market for statins may get a further boost.
The National Cholesterol Education Program, the group that drafted the 2001 and 2004 guidelines on statin use, is expected to update its treatment recommendations. In doing so, the group will decide whether to suggest the broad use of statins for healthy patients with high readings of a marker for inflammation called C-reactive protein.
If the group does urge statins for these healthy individuals, at least 6.5 million new patients could sign up for long-term statin use.

Senate Passes Child Nutrition Act

Andrew Martin:

The Senate on Thursday approved a long-awaited child nutrition act that intends to feed more hungry kids and make school food more nutritious, and it provides for $4.5 billion over the next decade to make that happen.
Called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, it passed the Senate unanimously and now moves on to the House, where passage is also expected. National child nutrition programs are set to expire Sept. 30.
The legislation will expand the number of low-income children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, largely by streamlining the paperwork required to receive the meals. And it will expand a program to provide after-school meals to at-risk children.

Are Lunch Ladies Part of Recipe for Good Schools?

Linda Lutton:

In Chicago, dozens of lunch ladies are leaving the schools they’ve worked at–sometimes for years. That’s because those schools are being “turned around”–a strategy that involves removing the entire staff at failing schools to “reset” the culture there. It’s a strategy Education Secretary Arne Duncan is now pushing nationwide. But a question is: Is it necessary to remove lunch ladies, janitors, and security guards to create better schools?
In mid-June, the lunch ladies at Deneen Elementary School on the city’s south side were serving up one of their last meals.
LUNCH LADY: How are you? What do you want? Carrots or salad?
Fewer than half of kids meet standards here on state tests, so Deneen is being forced to start over. As a “turnaround,” every adult has to leave, from the principal to the teachers to the seven lunch ladies. Veronica Fluth was Deneen’s cook. After insisting I put on a hair net, she gave me a tour of her spotless kitchen.

House bill would make school lunches healthier

Mary Clare Jalonick:

House Democrats are moving forward on first lady Michelle Obama’s vision for healthier school lunches, propelling legislation that calls for tougher standards governing food in school and more meals for hungry children.
A bill approved by the House Education and Labor Committee Thursday would allow the Agriculture Department to create new standards for all food in schools, including vending machine items. The legislation would spend about $8 billion more over 10 years on nutrition programs.
“This important legislation will combat hunger and provide millions of schoolchildren with access to healthier meals, a critical step in the battle against childhood obesity,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement after committee passage.
Some Republicans on the committee expressed concern about how the bill would be paid for, but three of them ended up voting for it. The legislation was approved on a 32-13 vote.

Don’t burn Jamie Oliver over school dinners

Rose Prince:

It is agreed, then, that bad eating habits are a government problem. Up to now, you would have been forgiven for thinking that all social ills are to be cured by television presenters. Then this week, the Health Secretary took Jamie Oliver and his well-intentioned – if sadly ineffective – efforts to reform school dinners to task. Take-up of meals is down, argued Andrew Lansley, suggesting that Jamie’s formula for school dinner reform is not working. I would suggest Andrew Lansley aims his guns in a different direction.
Oliver has often talked of his frustration and, indeed, has even burst into tears at the refusal of sinners to convert to his way of eating, or stay faithful afterwards. But their diets are not his fault, or his responsibility. He valiantly highlighted an important issue. Millions watched; the previous government made a lot of the right noises, but they never ran with Oliver’s campaign.

Did Jamie Oliver’s School Lunch Program Make Kids Eat Junk Food?

Megan Friedman:

What happens when you force kids to eat healthy food at school? They find a way to down junk food anyway. That’s what the U.K.’s health minister is accusing celebrity chef Jamie Oliver of causing with his attempt to rid cafeterias of unhealthy lunches. (via Wellness)
Oliver is best known in the U.S. for his show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, in which he attempted to get a West Virginia town to eat more healthfully. He had previously started a program in the U.K. called School Dinners, with a similar goal. Unfortunately, the result may not have worked out as planned. Wellness sums it up:

Study: N.Y. Soda Tax Would Curb Obesity, Diabetes

R.M. Schneiderman:

New Yorkers seem to oppose Gov. Paterson’s proposed penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. But over the next decade, the tax could curb soda consumption and prevent tens of thousands of cases of adult obesity and Type 2 diabetes, a change that would save state residents an estimated $2.1 billion in related medical expenditures, according to a new study commissioned by the New York City Health Department.
The study, conducted by Dr. Claire Wang, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University, analyzed various surveys on sugary drink consumption, related health risks and the effects of price on consumer choices. The findings: a soda tax would reduce consumption of sugary beverages by 15% to 20%. It would also prevent an estimated 37,000 or more cases of Type 2 diabetes and an estimated 145,000 or more cases of adult obesity over the next decade.

District Graduation Rate Map Tool

Education Week, via a kind reader:

EdWeek Maps is the only place to find comparable, reliable, readily accessible data on graduation rates and other indicators for every school district and high school in the country.
The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center is proud to present this powerful online mapping tool to help the public, policymakers, and educational leaders combat the nation’s graduation crisis. EdWeek Maps is the only place to find comparable, reliable data on graduation rates for every school district and high school in the country.
This Web-based application allows users to easily map out graduation rates by zooming in on any of the nation’s individual school districts. Users can then access detailed information for that district or any of its high schools.

Documentary on farming at Detroit school gets recognition as subject might move

David Runk:

A documentary from a pair of Dutch filmmakers about urban farming at a Detroit school for pregnant teens and young mothers is getting wider recognition as the school’s program faces the prospect of being uprooted.
Mascha and Manfred Poppenk made “Grown in Detroit” first for Dutch public television and began screening it last year. It focuses on the Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women, which has its own working farm.
“This is really a film Americans should see,” Mascha Poppenk said. “They need to see there are good things going on in Detroit.”
The building that houses Catherine Ferguson could be closed in June and its program moved to another one about a mile away. It’s part of a plan announced in March by district emergency financial manager Robert Bobb to close 44 schools.
Detroit Public Schools, which is fighting years of declining enrolment and a $219 million budget deficit, closed 29 schools before the start of classes last fall and shuttered 35 buildings about three years ago.

California schools ban sugary sports drinks

Jill Blocker:

California middle-and high schoolers will have to find another way to quench their thirst during lunch, other than those brightly-colored, sugar-sweetened sports drinks.
On Thursday, the California Senate passed Senate Bill: 1255, which prohibits the sale of sugar-sweetened sports drinks in public middle and high schools as part of an effort to combat childhood obesity, according to the Ventura County Star.
“Studies have shown weight gain is connected to consuming sports drinks, and I applaud the California Senate for taking action to help prevent childhood obesity,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., said in a press release. Schwarzenegger sponsored the bill, which was authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles.
An original 32-ounce Gatorade has four servings per container, with 14 grams of sugar, meaning consumers are taking in 56 grams of sugar if they drink one regular-size bottle. It contains no fruit juice.

Wisconsin Democrat Representative Ron Kind (D-3) Introduces Legislation Requiring Government Tracking of Children’s Body Mass

Penny Starr:

A bill introduced this month in Congress would put the federal and state governments in the business of tracking how fat, or skinny, American children are.
States receiving federal grants provided for in the bill would be required to annually track the Body Mass Index of all children ages 2 through 18. The grant-receiving states would be required to mandate that all health care providers in the state determine the Body Mass Index of all their patients in the 2-to-18 age bracket and then report that information to the state government. The state government, in turn, would be required to report the information to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for analysis.
The Healthy Choices Act–introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee–would establish and fund a wide range of programs and regulations aimed at reducing obesity rates by such means as putting nutritional labels on the front of food products, subsidizing businesses that provide fresh fruits and vegetables, and collecting BMI measurements of patients and counseling those that are overweight or obese.

FARM FEUD

Caryolyn Lochhead:

Slow food stirs up battle in heartland.
Agricultural establishment fighting back at movement.
From Pennsylvania church ladies to Iowa dairymen, the locavore, small-is-good, organic food movement born in Northern California has penetrated America’s heartland, where it is waging a pitchfork rebellion, much of it on the Internet, against the agricultural establishment.
After long dismissing the new food movement as a San Francisco annoyance, the establishment is fighting back.
“Alice should drown in her own waters,” said High Plains Journal’s Larry Dreiling of Berkeley food guru Alice Waters.

Better food at a school near you

Susan Troller:

Local foodies are cheering the news that Wisconsin lawmakers this week passed legislation that will help bring local farm products to school lunchrooms.
The Assembly passed AB 746, which creates a statewide council to coordinate the process of selling Wisconsin-grown products to schools. The Senate concurred on the Farm-to-School initiative which is cheering news to Wisconsin farmers and advocates for more fresh foods on school menus.
Meanwhile, a newly released report from chef Beth Collins and Lunch Lessons about Madison’s school meal program says the Madison school district’s food service facilities, staff and organization pose no barriers to putting healthier, less processed food on kids’ plates at school. But district budget woes and time constraints, plus the lack of a well-focused plan, still pose significant hurdles to upgrading what kids eat at school.

A Food Revolution in School Lunches

Kari McLennan:

Has anyone been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution? I have and I have to say that Jamie is truly inspiring. He’s got so much passion and drive. I wish I had a pinky’s worth of his. If you’re not familiar with Jamie, he has a long career that I believe started with his simple cooking show The Naked Chef. Since then he’s revolutionized the British school lunch program and is now on to America’s unhealthiest city to continue the revolution.
So just what is so bad about school lunches? Well, this is certainly not a new topic for The Green Mama, but it’s important because kids are the future and habits are created when we’re young. This is the first generation that is not expected to live longer than their parents due mostly to obesity. One in three Illinois children is overweight or obese and according to the Community Food Security Commission, 1 in 3 children will develop type 2 diabetes. It’s heartbreaking.

New York parents turn up heat on ‘bake sales’ ban

Jonathan Birchall:

New York city’s standard-setting efforts to improve the heatlh of its citizens have provoked resistance in the past from bar owners, fastfood restaurants and global food and drink companies.
But this week it was the turn of parents selling muffins, brownies and spinach empanadas on the steps of City Hall.
About 300 people turned out to oppose new city regulations that in effect ban school “bake sales” – an all-American fundraising staple where students and parents sell homebaked cakes and cookies to fund museum trips and equip their sports teams.
The sales, which can raise as much as $500 a time, have fallen foul of efforts by the Department of Education to improve the nutritional quality of foods available in schools as part of its battle against rising levels of childhood obesity.

Lousy School Lunch Bill Closer to Passage

Jill Richardson:

Why do Democrats put their least loyal Senator in charge of one of their highest profile issues? Michelle Obama started her government-wide “Let’s Move” program to improve children’s health and nutrition, but Blanche Lincoln’s the author of the Senate child nutrition bill that just passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday. And Blanche Lincoln is no Michelle Obama. She’s not even as progressive as Barack Obama, who called for $10 billion in new money over 10 years for child nutrition, a number Lincoln reduced by more than half.
To put that in easier to understand terms, Obama’s proposal would have given up to $.18 in addition funds to each child’s school lunch. Lincoln’s bill gives each lunch $.06. Compare that to the School Nutrition Association’s request to raise the current $2.68 “reimbursement rate” (the amount the federal government reimburses schools for each free lunch served to a low income child) by $.35 just to keep the quality of the lunches the same and make up for schools’ current budgetary shortfall. School lunch reformer Ann Cooper calls for an extra $1 per lunch to actually make lunches healthy. So any amount under $.35 is no reform at all, and Lincoln gave us $.06.

Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain

Hilary Parker:

A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.
“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”