Category Archives: Nutrition

Pepsi Says No To Full Calorie Soda Sales in Schools, by 2012

Associated Press:

PepsiCo Inc. said Tuesday it will remove full-calorie sweetened drinks from schools in more than 200 countries by 2012, marking the first such move by a major soft-drink producer.
PepsiCo announced its plan the same day first lady Michelle Obama urged major companies to put less fat, salt and sugar in foods and reduce marketing of unhealthy products to children. Pepsi, the world’s second-biggest soft-drink maker, and Coca-Cola Co., the biggest, adopted guidelines to stop selling sugary drinks in U.S. schools in 2006.
The World Heart Federation has been urging soft-drink makers for the past year to remove sugary beverages from schools. The group is looking to fight a rise in childhood obesity, which can lead to diabetes and other ailments.
PepsiCo’s move is what the group had been seeking because it affects students through age 18, said Pekka Puska, president of the World Heart Federation, made up of heart associations around the world. In an interview from Finland, Dr. Puska said he hopes other companies feel pressured to take similar steps. “It may be not so well known in the U.S. how intensive the marketing of soft drinks is in so many countries,” he said. Developing countries such as Mexico are particularly affected, he added.

War on Soft Drinks Bubbles out of Schools

Michelle Miller:

When former President Bill Clinton enlisted the beverage industries in fighting childhood obesity, he did not expect so much progress in just four years.
“I have to admit I’m stunned by the results,” Clinton said. “There has been an 88 percent reduction in the total beveraged calories shipped to schools.”
CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller report the industry is now selling healthier – instead of high calorie – drinks to students. Still not good enough, say public health officials.
A growing number of cities and states want to reduce adult consumption of sugary drinks by taxing them. New York has revived a proposal to impose a penny per ounce tax on sweetened beverages. Colorado has already levied such as tax. So has Illinois. California is considering it.

Nutrition: Vermont’s healthy start

Lisa Rathke:

The third- and fourth-graders at Sharon Elementary know where the veggies in their soup come from because they’ve visited the farms. They know the nutritional value of the carrots, onions and cabbage because they’ve studied them in class, and they know how they’re grown because they’ve nurtured them in raised beds out back.
The 105-student school is part of the National Farm to School Network, aimed at getting healthier meals into school cafeterias, teaching kids about agriculture and nutrition and supporting local farmers.
About 40 states have farm-to-school programs, but Vermont is a leader in incorporating all three missions into its programs.
“Vermont has really taken it on in quite the most holistic way and not just in a couple of school districts, but statewide,” said Anupama Joshi, director of the Farm to School program, based at the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
Vermont might be a step ahead of other states because a nonprofit partnership called Vermont FEED already had been working to get local foods into schools.

To make school food healthy, Michelle Obama has a tall order

Ed Bruske:

First lady Michelle Obama’s new campaign against childhood obesity, dubbed “Let’s Move,” puts improvements to school food at the top of the agenda. Some 31 million children participate in federal school meal programs, Obama noted in announcing her initiative last week, “and what we don’t want is a situation where parents are taking all the right steps at home — and then their kids undo all that work with salty, fatty food in the school cafeteria,” she explained. “So let’s move to get healthier food into our nation’s schools.”
Last month I had a chance to see up close what all the school food fuss was about when I spent a week in the kitchen of my 10-year-old daughter’s public school, H.D. Cooke Elementary, in Northwest D.C. Chartwells, the company contracted by the city to provide meals to the District’s schools, had switched in the fall from serving warm-up meals prepackaged in a factory to food it called “fresh cooked,” and I couldn’t wait to chronicle in my food blog how my daughter’s school meals were being prepared from scratch.

New Chef Will Help Pastry Level to Rise

Ben Goldberger:

New Chef Will Help Pastry Level to Rise
Restaurants like Charlie Trotter’s, Tru and Per Se all have alumni of the French Pastry School in their kitchens.
Chicago has long attracted ambitious immigrants from all corners of the world. World champion bakers from tiny Alsatian villages are not usually among them.
Pierre Zimmermann may well be the first when he arrives in August to join the faculty of Chicago’s French Pastry School. Mr. Zimmermann stands out in the tightly-knit and highly competitive international baking scene as the latest in four generations of his family who have run a boulangerie-patisserie in Schnersheim.
Mr. Zimmermann, 45, won the World Cup of Baking as a member of France’s gold medal team at the 1996 Coupe du Monde de laBoulangerie and coached France’s 2008 World Cup of Baking championship team.
The pedigree, and Mr. Zimmermann’s deft touch with a baguette, made him such an attraction that the Loop school pursued him for four years.
That he chose to give up his job as “the little baker of my village,” as he put it in a recent e-mail translated from French, is a testament to Chicago’s importance among food cognoscenti and the French Pastry School’s growing reputation.

Play, Then Eat: Shift May Bring Gains at School

Tara Parker-Pope
Can something as simple as the timing of recess make a difference in a child’s health and behavior?
Some experts think it can, and now some schools are rescheduling recess — sending students out to play before they sit down for lunch. The switch appears to have led to some surprising changes in both cafeteria and classroom.
Schools that have tried it report that when children play before lunch, there is less food waste and higher consumption of milk, fruit and vegetables. And some teachers say there are fewer behavior problems.
“Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” said Janet Sinkewicz, principal of Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, N.J., which made the change last fall. “They feel like they have more time to eat and they don’t have to rush.”

High cholesterol puts 1 of 5 teens at risk of heart disease

Rob Stein:

One out of every five U.S. teenagers has a cholesterol level that increases the risk of heart disease, federal health officials reported Thursday, providing striking new evidence that obesity is making more children prone to illnesses once primarily limited to adults.
A nationally representative survey of blood test results in American teenagers found that more than 20 percent of those ages 12 to 19 had at least one abnormal level of fat. The rate jumped to 43 percent among those adolescents who were obese.
Previous studies had indicated that unhealthy cholesterol levels, once a condition thought isolated to the middle-aged and elderly, were increasingly becoming a problem among the young, but the new data document the scope of the threat on a national level.
“This is the future of America,” said Linda Van Horn, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University who heads the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee. “These data really confirm the seriousness of our obesity epidemic. This really is an urgent call for health-care providers and families to take this issue seriously.”

Madison Country Day students aim to open eyes to global hunger issues

Pamela Cotant:

When diners arrive at the Food for Thought hunger awareness banquet Friday at Madison Country Day School, they will be assigned a certain income level that will determine their meal.
Those in the lowest income group will be served rice on a banana leaf and at the other end of the spectrum, diners will be able to choose food from a table loaded with choices.
The idea of the hunger awareness event, which starts at 5 p.m. at the school at 5606 River Road on the edge of Waunakee, is to encourage the local community to help address global hunger.
“It’s not supposed to be a depressing event,” junior Fabian Fernandez said. “It’s supposed to be eye opening.”
After a discussion about global hunger issues, which will include talk about how those with enough food could be giving some to those who don’t, the diners will be allowed to share their food. “The goal is to have people (assigned different income levels) eating near each other (to) help people see the difference,” said freshman Imani Lewis-Norelle.

Free for All: Fixing School Food in America

Michael O’Donnell:

In his brilliant and distressing essay on the cruelties of English boarding school life in the 1910s, “Such, Such Were the Joys,” George Orwell devoted a few lines to the prevailing attitudes toward feeding children. A boy’s appetite was seen as “a sort of morbid growth which should be kept in check as much as possible.” At Orwell’s school, St. Cyprian’s, the food was therefore not only unappetizing but calorically insufficient; students were often told “that it is healthy to get up from a meal feeling as hungry as when you sat down.” Only a generation earlier, school meals began with “a slab of unsweetened suet pudding, which, it was frankly said, broke the boys’ appetites.” Orwell described sneaking, terrified, down to the kitchen in the middle of the night for a slice or two of stale bread to dull the hunger pains. His contemporaries at public school had it better, and worse: so long as their parents gave them pocket money to buy eggs, sausages, and sardines from street vendors, they scrounged enough food to get through the day.
This spirit of tut-tut character building through patronizing if affectionate deprivation comes off as thoroughly British, but for a time the attitude spanned the Atlantic. In 1906, one American principal opposed the growing enthusiasm for a school lunch program by warning: “If you attempt to take hardship and suffering out of their lives by smoothing the pathway of life for these children, you weaken their character, and by so doing, you sin against the children themselves and, through them, against society.” Let them starve a little, went the thinking–it won’t kill them, and it’s better than getting fat on sweets.

At Landover middle school, philosophy is part of lunch menu

Nelson Hernandez:

Schools these days focus mostly on preparing students for tests of reading and math, but during lunchtime at Kenmoor Middle School in Landover, the youngsters sitting in a small circle were tackling the really deep questions: Ethics. Fairness. How to split dessert.
All three issues turned up as the seventh- and eighth-graders in the Philosophy Club tackled the question of the day: “Imagine that you are babysitting a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old. The parents have left some treats for dessert: two bananas, a lollipop and an ice cream bar. The parents’ instructions are to allow each child to choose one treat. Unfortunately, both kids want the ice cream bar. How can you distribute the goods fairly?”
Someone suggested that they split the ice cream bar in half, but other students had other ideas.

Senator seeks ‘strict testing’ for meat sent to schools

Blake Morrison & Peter Eisler:

A senator on the committee overseeing the National School Lunch Program called Monday for the government to raise its standards for meat sent to schools across the nation.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., urged “a strict testing program” for ground beef similar to those “used by industry leaders such as Jack in the Box and Costco.”
Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture already sets special inspection and testing requirements for the meat it sends to schools, a USA TODAY investigation this month found that those requirements lag those set by many fast food restaurants and grocery chains.

Do we need lunch periods, or even cafeterias?

Jay Matthews:

A flood of emails Monday resisting my suggestion of longer school days to raise achievement leads me to wonder if parts of the regular school day could be put to better use. Is the typical raucous high school lunch period, in an overcrowded and sometimes dangerous cafeteria, really necessary? My colleague Jenna Johnson wrote last week of imaginative principals letting students avoid the cafeteria in favor of staying in classrooms to catch up with work or having club meetings. Can lunch become a time for stress-free learning, rather than Lord of the Flies with tile floors?
Okay, I confess I have long considered lunch a waste of time. I avoided the cafeteria during high school. My favorite lunch was eating a sandwich in a classroom while convening the student court, of which I was chief justice, so we could sanction some miscreant for stealing corn nuts from the vending machine. (I heard a radio ad for that classmate’s business when I was home recently—he has become a successful attorney.) At the office these days I stay in my cubicle and have crackers and fruit juice, maybe a cookie if somebody has brought them from home.

A New Front in War on Cavities

Shirley Wang:

Cavities have made a dismaying comeback in children in recent years, and the search is on among scientists to find new ways to fight tooth decay.
The prevalence of cavities in children aged 2 to 5 decreased steadily through the 1970s and 1980s, thanks largely to the expansion of water fluoridation and to advances in treatment and prevention, dental experts say. The trend appeared to hit a low around the mid-1990s, when about 24% of young children had cavities, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But tooth decay then began heading higher. A CDC survey found that 28% of small children–a significant increase, according to the agency–had cavities in the five years ended 2004, the latest data available. The reasons for the increase aren’t entirely clear. But dental experts suggest it may be due to children drinking more bottled water that doesn’t contain fluoride, and to changes in dietary habits.

School meals: the breakfast sugar overload

Valerie Strauss:

The first thing that jumped out at me about today’s Washington Post story about kids in D.C. schools eating federally funded breakfasts was “sugar.”
How much sugar was in the breakfast given to fourth-grader Alex Brown?
He had a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, amount not mentioned; but a single serving, 1 cup, has 14 grams of sugar. That’s not especially high in the sweetened cereal world,
but it’s not great.
The breakfast also included graham crackers, amount not mentioned. But the amount of sugar per serving, which is one little square, in Nabisco graham crackers is 2.2 grams.
Then there was the juice. The article said the boy had milk and juice, amount and kind not mentioned. But one serving, which is 1 cup, of Minute Maid orange juice has 22 grams of sugar.
If the child had a cup of Lucky Charms, two graham cracker squares and an 8-ounce glass of Minute Maid orange juice, he would have consumed 40.4 grams of sugar for breakfast.

Congress should make sure children are protected from food-borne illnesses

Las Vegas Sun Editorial:

The chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee wants an investigation into the safety of school lunches. Judging by what the nation has seen with E. coli outbreaks and other food scares, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., has good reason to be concerned that potentially fatal contaminants could be served up in school cafeterias.
A recent report to Congress found that the Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service, which provides up to 20 percent of the food served in the nation’s schools, doesn’t always provide the schools with timely recall notices. That increases the risk of contaminated food making its way onto children’s plates.
Miller notes that schools receive food from other sources and points to the recent E. coli outbreak from a meat packing plant in New York. None of the 500,000 pounds went to schools, but the contaminated meat — which caused two deaths and sickened 16 others — highlights another problem. The federal schools program mandates that all its beef be tested for E. coli. However, the meat that schools receive from other sources is not required to undergo E. coli testing.

“Fast Food” Learning


In a Wellstone Elementary classroom, the five minutes before class have become the quietest part of the school day.
You can’t blame the students for not talking. They’re busy eating.
A growing school-breakfast program in St. Paul, called Breakfast to Go, allows these students to grab a free nutritious meal in the cafeteria and take it to class. This “fast food” ensures more children are eating their morning meal and can cut down on tardiness and other barriers to their education.
“There were people that had concerns about food in the classroom. But now they’ve seen the benefit of it and are very supportive of it,” said Christine Osorio, principal of St. Paul’s Paul and Sheila Wellstone Elementary, the site for the district’s pilot program last year.
“Teachers really like having the kids up in class and getting started,” Osorio said. “It’s built community in classrooms. It’s given us a much more relaxed start to our day.”

75% of Potential Military Recruits Too Fat, Too Sickly, Too Dumb to Serve

Noah Schachtman:

More than three-quarters of the nation’s 17- to 24-year-olds couldn’t serve in the military, even if they wanted to. They’re too fat, too sickly, too dumb, have too many kids, or have copped to using illegal drugs.
The armed services are willing to grant waivers for some of those conditions – asthma, or a little bit of weed. But the military’s biggest concern is how big and how weak its potential recruits have become.
“The major component of this is obesity,” Curt Gilroy, the Pentagon’s director of accessions, tells Army Times’ William McMichael. “Kids are just not able to do push-ups… And they can’t do pull-ups. And they can’t run.”
23 percent of 18- to 34-year-old are now obese, up from just six percent in 1987.
The group of potential enlistees is further slimmed by the “propensity to serve” among American youths, which social scientists say also is declining. According to Gilroy, research shows that about 12 percent of all U.S. military-eligible youth show an interest in military service.

Schools improve certification for school lunches

Henry Jackson:

Schools are doing a better job of identifying students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, but some states are much better than others, the Agriculture Department says in a report to Congress.
In 2008-2009, 78 percent of schools identified eligible students by using government records of which households already receive aid like food stamps. Use of the so-called direct certification method, the most efficient way to enroll school children in subsidized lunch programs, was up 11 percentage points from the previous year, according to the report, which is being delivered to Congress on Tuesday. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.
Direct certification helps eliminate the lengthy application process for free meals.
Despite the overall improvement, the report shows a wide disparity in performance from state to state. The top four states – Alaska, Delaware, New York and Tennessee – all directly enrolled more than 90 percent of students from households that receive food stamps.

San Francisco Schools Lunch Money Cut off, Rules Broken

Jill Tucker:

Since April, the school district has had to pony up the $1.5 million monthly cost of the lunch program for low-income students after state inspectors on a surprise visit found violations they deemed so serious and recurring that they cut off the flow of federal reimbursements.
The violations had nothing to do with the quality of food being served, but stem from the school district’s inability to follow bureaucratic rules governing the federally subsidized National School Lunch Program, which is administered by the state.
To ensure no child goes without a lunch, the district, meanwhile, has spent more than $11 million, money it will get back once city schools show they can follow the rules – something district officials have been working on since the inspection.

Cooking classes for children

Jenny Linford:

We know that children need to eat more healthily but the message will be useless if they don’t learn to cook – and enjoy doing so. Sadly, a generation has already grown up without learning to cook at school: when the National Curriculum was introduced into UK state schools in 1990, practical cookery was sidelined in favour of “food technology”. Children learned to design logos for pizza boxes, rather than to make a pizza.
This gaping hole in our children’s education is something Katie Caldesi, director of Italian cookery school Cucina Caldesi in Marylebone, London, is keen to correct. She has two sons aged seven and nine, and says: “It’s criminal that we dropped cookery from the curriculum. Italian food lends itself to cookery for children as long as they don’t just have white carbohydrates; in Italy you have pasta first, then meat, vegetables, then fruit.”
To help get children cooking their favourite Italian dishes, Cucina Caldesi runs classes for those aged six and over alongside its adult programme. It also has a holiday workshop for teenagers, “La Cucina dei Ragazzi”, led by Caldesi head chef Stefano Borella. I went to observe, while my 13-year-old son Ben, a keen eater and occasional cook, took part in the class alongside five others.
Borella, whose teaching style is informal but authoritative, won over the young cooks from the start. The aim of the session, he said, was to prepare, cook and eat a three-course meal: gnocchi with walnut pesto, fish skewers with lemon couscous and basil pannacotta served with berries.

A lesson in school lunch

Susan Troller:

“Eat the taco salad. It’s good.”
The reassuring comment came from a crowd of seventh-grade boys at Velma Hamilton Middle School as I prepared to eat my first school lunch in more than 40 years.
They politely made room for me at the front of a line that circled the cafeteria/multipurpose room, nodding enthusiastically as I took the salad. As a former food writer and restaurant critic newly returned to covering topics about children and education, I wanted to experience firsthand school lunches at Madison’s elementary, middle and high schools. Madison, like communities across the nation, is re-evaluating school meals with an eye toward making them more nutritious and appealing.
The taco salad featured finely shredded lettuce, providing a reasonably crisp bed for a mound of mildly seasoned ground beef; a dab of sour cream, a small plastic container of salsa and a small package of salty, tortilla chips completed the spread. It was the most popular purchased lunch option that day, although a majority of Hamilton’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders appeared to have brought their own lunches. With a half-pint of milk, the meal cost $3.30 (adult full-price middle school lunch). I’d probably give it a grade of C+ or B-.

Beefing up: High school football players are bigger but not necessarily healthier

Eric Cexheimer & John Maher:

Last weekend, two football teams faced off in a fierce divisional rivalry. Both boasted intimidating offenses built around sumo-sized linemen; half of the two teams’ centers, guards and tackles tipped the scales above 300 pounds.
The teams aren’t from the NFL. They aren’t big-time colleges, or even Division II or III squads. They are the Central Texas high schools of McNeil and Cedar Park. The largest of their linemen is approaching 350 pounds.
Once a rarity, teenaged mega-players have become a common sight under the Friday night lights. “If you were to weigh the lines of high school football teams, they’re significantly higher in recent years,” said Brian Carr, a physical therapist and trainer at Georgetown High School. “Compared to just 15 years ago, there’s a huge difference.”
Doctors and trainers are reporting increases in certain injuries — stress-related muscle and ligament tears, knee strains and foot fractures — that can be directly attributed to the strains placed on developing bodies by extra bulk. Weight-related medical problems are also beginning to crop up among the giant teenagers.

Fewer Schools Sell Students Snacks


Fewer U.S. high schools and middle schools are selling candy and salty snacks to students, the federal government said in a report released Monday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report was based on a survey of public schools in 34 states that compared results from 2006 to 2008. The study didn’t report the total number of schools that have changed. Instead, it looked at the proportion of schools in each state.
It found that the median proportion of high schools and middle schools that sell sugary or salty snacks dropped to 36% from 54%. The share of schools that sell soda and artificial fruit drinks fell to 37% from 62%.

A Crackdown on Bake Sales in City Schools

Jennifer Medina:

There shall be no cupcakes. No chocolate cake and no carrot cake. According to New York City’s latest regulations, not even zucchini bread makes the cut.
In an effort to limit how much sugar and fat students put in their bellies at school, the Education Department has effectively banned most bake sales, the lucrative if not quite healthy fund-raising tool for generations of teams and clubs.
The change is part of a new wellness policy that also limits what can be sold in vending machines and student-run stores, which use profits to help finance activities like pep rallies and proms. The elaborate rules were outlined in a three-page memo issued at the end of June, but in the new school year, principals and parents are just beginning to, well, digest them.

A difficult lesson in tough love

Mrs. Moneypenny:

Do you keep phone numbers? I meticulously store contact details for everyone I meet, however random, and make notes of what they do and where I met them. My other modus operandi when meeting people is always to try to be as polite and helpful as possible (within reason).
Hence, I found myself giving up an hour or so earlier this year to cast an eye over the business strategy of a small enterprise. On meeting the people behind the business, I discovered that it was a rehabilitation clinic, and one of the people presenting to me was a very impressive addiction counsellor, and herself a recovering alcoholic.
And that is where I sat up and took notice, because I have a close relative who is alcohol-dependent. It is not Mr M or any of the cost centres, but it is someone very dear to me. Those of you who have someone in their family who is alcohol- or drug-dependent will know how emotionally scarring this is. You love them, you want to help, you try to help, but they are living in another world. In their world, they are not addicts; they believe that they could give up at any time. They always have an excuse. Something is always just around the corner that will fix their problems – if only they could meet the right person/get the right job/have the right amount of money, everything would be fine. Nothing and no one ever prepared me for the self-delusion of the alcoholic. Every time they say they are going to get help, your hopes rise; and invariably they end up being crushed again

USDA Urges Schools, Hospitals, Others To ‘Buy Local’


The U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching a campaign to encourage schools, hospitals, jails and other institutions to buy food from local producers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been trying to get Americans to eat more fruit and vegetables as a way to combat obesity. The campaign also aims to provide income for small farms and boost the economies in rural areas.

Girls and Dieting, Then and Now

Jeffrey Zaslow:

One day in January 1986, fourth-grade girls at Marie Murphy School in Wilmette, Ill., were called down to the principal’s office.
A stranger was waiting there to ask each girl a question: “Are you on a diet?”
Most of the girls said they were.
“I just want to be skinny so no one will tease me,” explained Sara Totonchi.
“Boys expect girls to be perfect and beautiful,” said Rozi Bhimani. “And skinny.”
I was the questioner that day. As a young Wall Street Journal reporter, I had gone to a handful of Chicago-area schools to ask 100 fourth-grade girls about their dieting habits. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco were about to release a study showing 80% of fourth-grade girls were dieting, and I wanted to determine: Was this a California oddity, or had America’s obsession with slimness reached the 60-pound weight class?
My reporting ended up mirroring the study’s results. More than half of the 9-year-old girls I surveyed said they were dieting, and 75%–even the skinniest ones–said they weighed too much. I also spoke to fourth-grade boys and learned what the girls were up against. “Fat girls aren’t like regular girls,” one boy told me. “They aren’t attractive.”

U.S. school lunch reform may open opportunity menu

Lisa Baertlein:

School lunch is back on the U.S. policy menu for the first time in decades, thanks to President Barack Obama’s drive to make school food more nutritious and healthy.
Like any reform effort in Washington these days, the school lunch overhaul is vulnerable to a growing government deficit. But some companies and investors are getting in the game early with small projects that could some day grow into big business catering to millions of school children.
The U.S. government pays much of the bill for school food. Efforts to replace the processed and nutrition-poor foods still on many student lunch trays come with a higher price tag that many schools cannot afford. Businesses can help close the gap.
U.S. natural foods grocer Whole Foods Market Inc (WFMI.O) has teamed with Chef Ann Cooper — best known for her high-profile partnership with Chef Alice Waters at Berkeley Unified School District — to launch the Lunch Box project (, an expanding online guidebook to help school “lunch ladies” serve healthier food.

Stars Aligning on School Lunches

Kim Severson:

ANN COOPER has made a career out of hammering on the poor quality of public school food. The School Nutrition Association, with 55,000 members, represents the people who prepare it.
A meal from the cafeteria at P.S. 89 in Manhattan does not contain processed food.
Imagine Ms. Cooper’s surprise when she was invited to the association’s upcoming conference to discuss the Lunch Box, a system she developed to help school districts wean themselves from packaged, heavily processed food and begin cooking mostly local food from scratch.
“All of a sudden I am not the fringe idiot trying to get everyone to serve peas and carrots that don’t come out of a can, like that’s the most radical idea they have ever heard of,” she said.
The invitation is a small sign of larger changes happening in public school cafeterias. For the first time since a new wave of school food reform efforts began a decade ago, once-warring camps are sharing strategies to improve what kids eat. The Department of Agriculture is welcoming ideas from community groups and more money than ever is about to flow into school cafeterias, from Washington and from private providers.
“The window’s open,” said Kathleen Merrigan, the deputy secretary of agriculture. “We are in the zone when a whole lot of exciting ideas are being put on the table. I have been working in the field of sustainable agriculture and nutrition all my professional life, and I really have never seen such opportunity before.”

The 25 Best Foods for Fitness

When it comes to choosing the foods we eat, we have so many choices that it often becomes confusing. As Americans, we are blessed with almost every kind of food imaginable, available right next door at the supermarket. There are, however, some very specific foods that help improve athletic performance. The foods listed below are particular important to keep in your diet. The following foods, in alphabetical order, provide premium fuel for the active athlete.

US obesity problem ‘intensifies’


The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found adult obesity rates rose in 23 of the 50 states, but fell in none.
In addition, the percentage of obese and overweight children is at or above 30% in 30 states.
The report warns widespread obesity is fuelling rates of chronic disease, and is responsible for a large, and growing chunk of domestic healthcare costs.
Obesity is linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Dr Jeff Levi, TFAH executive director, said: “Our health care costs have grown along with our waist lines. “The obesity epidemic is a big contributor to the skyrocketing health care costs in the US.


Feeding America:

One in six young children live on the brink of hunger in 26 states in the U.S., according to a new report issued today by Feeding America. The rate of food insecurity in young children is 33 percent higher than in U.S. adults, where one in eight live at risk of hunger
Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2005 — 2007 states that 3.5 million children, ages five and under, are food insecure.
The analysis includes the first ever state-by-state analysis of early childhood hunger, using data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Calorie Counts Could Crowd Fast-Food Menus

Mike Hughlett:

Public health advocates and the fast-food industry are preparing to go head-to-head over proposed federal legislation that would require restaurants to post calorie counts alongside prices. A patchwork of such laws at the state level have been enacted in recent years, and the restaurant industry has countered with proposing federal legislation on the issue – but public health advocates say the industry’s proposed solution is too weak.

Onalaska Students Transform Lunch Program

Wisconsin DPI:

After channeling their complaints about school lunch into an effort to make a real difference, students at Onalaska High School are enjoying healthier, better tasting choices–not to mention some national attention for the improvements they’ve made.
In 2007-08, Amy Yin, then a junior at Onalaska and the student representative to the local school board, was hearing grumbling from students about the elimination of favorite food choices. According to the Onalaska Holmen Courier-Life, it was Principal Peter Woerpel who first planted the idea of starting a Student Nutrition Advisory Committee. Yin, a high-achieving Presidential Scholar semifinalist who got a perfect score on the ACT exam, ran with the concept, and it took off. The committee was a devoted group–meeting multiple hours every week, including on weekends.
Although some of the lost favorites didn’t return–the chocolate chip muffins, for example, no longer met nutrition standards–the students were able to make an important impact. As they learned more about nutrition and the school lunch program, they were able to work with the school to provide choices that were both healthier and more appealing to the student body. These days, Onalaska High School serves fresh fruit instead of just canned, and offers a salad bar that became especially popular after the addition of ingredients in three different colors. Lunch participation and consumption in general is up, too.

Schools aim to make lunches healthy, tasty

Amy Hetzner:

Before the first lunch period begins at Oconomowoc High School, students sidle up to see what chef Brian Shoemake is cooking.
“Chicken pasta broccoli bowl,” Shoemake says in answer to an inquiry. “I’ll get you to eat your broccoli.”
Well, maybe not that student. But in the 15 minutes that ensue, Shoemake manages to fill the bowls of at least 60 others with steaming rotini, strips of chicken breast, their choice of Alfredo sauce and, yes, freshly cooked broccoli spears.
The addition of Shoemake to the lunch lineup this school year is part of a larger effort at the school.
Like a number of schools throughout the state, Oconomowoc High School is trying to tackle that seemingly intractable barrier in the fight to improve childhood nutrition: the school lunch.
“Student tastes have changed so much in the last 10 years,” said Brenda Klamert, director of child nutrition services for the Oconomowoc Area School District. “They’re looking for healthy foods.”
Schools have been slow to meet the demand.
Sure, many have added salad bars. But most lunches remain high in saturated fat and cholesterol and low in fiber- and nutrient-rich food, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The Washington-based group advocates a more vegetarian approach.

Selling Obesity At School

NY Times Editorial:

The federal school lunch program, which subsidizes meals for 30 million low-income children, was created more than half a century ago to combat malnutrition. A breakfast program was added during the 1960s, and both were retooled a decade ago in an attempt to improve the nutritional value of food served at school.
More must now be done to fight the childhood obesity epidemic, which has triggered a frightening spike in weight-related disorders like diabetes, high-blood pressure and heart disease among young people. And the place to start is the schools, where junk foods sold outside the federal meals programs — through snack bars, vending machines and à la carte food lines — has pretty much canceled out the benefits of all those healthy lunches and breakfasts.

Don’t boycott school lunch, district tells Nuestro Mundo

Mary Ellen Gabriel:

A group of fourth-graders at Nuestro Mundo Elementary School had planned to remain in their classroom through lunch and recess Friday, enjoying a meal of fresh fruit, vegetables and homemade pasta at cloth-covered tables with flower centerpieces.

The group from Joshua Forehand’s class, which calls itself BCSL (“Boycott School Lunch”) formed to protest what they see as unhealthy food offered in the school’s cafeteria, but they scrapped their plan to host a “Good Real Food” picnic after Assistant Superintendent Sue Abplanalp called school administrators and parents to discourage it.

“There were too many obstacles,” Abplanalp said in an interview, citing the possibility of allergy-causing ingredients in shared homemade food, lack of adequate supervision, and the presence of the news media as major concerns.

“We want students’ voices to be heard. This just seemed to come together too fast, without various issues being addressed.”

When asked if the district feared negative publicity, Abplanalp said no. Instead she cited student privacy as a major concern.

“We have strict guidelines about the media interviewing students on school grounds. The principal maintains a list of kids whose parents have given permission for media exposure.”

Brain Gain: The underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs.

Margaret Talbot:

young man I’ll call Alex recently graduated from Harvard. As a history major, Alex wrote about a dozen papers a semester. He also ran a student organization, for which he often worked more than forty hours a week; when he wasn’t on the job, he had classes. Weeknights were devoted to all the schoolwork that he couldn’t finish during the day, and weekend nights were spent drinking with friends and going to dance parties. “Trite as it sounds,” he told me, it seemed important to “maybe appreciate my own youth.” Since, in essence, this life was impossible, Alex began taking Adderall to make it possible.
Adderall, a stimulant composed of mixed amphetamine salts, is commonly prescribed for children and adults who have been given a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. But in recent years Adderall and Ritalin, another stimulant, have been adopted as cognitive enhancers: drugs that high-functioning, overcommitted people take to become higher-functioning and more overcommitted. (Such use is “off label,” meaning that it does not have the approval of either the drug’s manufacturer or the Food and Drug Administration.) College campuses have become laboratories for experimentation with neuroenhancement, and Alex was an ingenious experimenter. His brother had received a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., and in his freshman year Alex obtained an Adderall prescription for himself by describing to a doctor symptoms that he knew were typical of the disorder. During his college years, Alex took fifteen milligrams of Adderall most evenings, usually after dinner, guaranteeing that he would maintain intense focus while losing “any ability to sleep for approximately eight to ten hours.” In his sophomore year, he persuaded the doctor to add a thirty-milligram “extended release” capsule to his daily regimen.

Obese primary school students are losing out when it comes to sports

Timothy Chui:

The Audit Commission did not spare the rod when it looked over the nutrition and exercise programs of primary schools and found things amiss.
Nearly a quarter of primary school children are obese – 120 percent heavier than the median weight for peers – compared with one-sixth in 1997, government statistics show.
Found wanting were better coordination and promotion from education, health and sports authorities to tackle obesity among primary school children.
According to the audit report released yesterday, students at nearly 100 primary schools were only managing 45 to 65 minutes of physical education a week, instead of the stipulated 70 minutes.
Compiled though 426 questionnaires and six school visits, the report revealed nearly one-third of 423 primary schools did not have physical activity policies compared with 42 which had undocumented polices and 28 percent with documented policies.

A Proposal to Separate Fast Food and Schools

Cara Buckley:

Just in from the department of not-so-surprising news: a study has found that young teenagers tend to be fatter when there are fast-food restaurants within one block of their schools.
The report found an increased obesity rate of at least 5.2 percent among teenagers at schools where fast-food outlets were a tenth of a mile — roughly one city block — or less away.
To remedy that, Eric N. Gioia, a city councilman from Queens, wants to stop fast-food restaurants from opening so close to the city’s schools.
“With the proliferation of fast-food restaurants directly around schools, it’s a clear and present danger to our children’s health,” said Mr. Gioia, who proposed the ban at a news conference at a school opposite a McDonald’s in TriBeCa on Sunday.
“A fast-food restaurant on the corner can have a terrible impact on a child’s life,” he said. “Obesity, diabetes, hypertension — it’s a step toward a less healthy life.”

The Dangers Of The Drinking Age

Jeffrey Miron & Elina Tetelbaum:

For the past 20 years, the U.S. has maintained a Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21 (MLDA21), with little public debate about the wisdom of this policy. Recently, however, more than 100 college and university presidents signed the Amethyst Initiative, a public statement calling for “an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age.”
The response to the Amethyst Initiative was predictable: Advocates of restricted access and zero tolerance decried the statement for not recognizing that the MLDA21 saves lives by preventing traffic deaths among 18- to 20-year-olds. The president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for example, accused the university heads of “not doing their homework” on the relationship between the drinking age and traffic fatalities.
In fact, the advocates of the MLDA21 are the ones who need a refresher course. In our recently completed research, we show that the MLDA21 has little or no life-saving effect.

Greens in cafe – culture call for school lunc

Timothy Chui:

Schools with cafeterias can reduce food wastage and save about 2.14 million disposable lunch boxes heading for landfills every year, Greeners Action project officer Yip Chui-man said yesterday.

Roughly 380,000 primary school students take lunch everyday, according to Yip, who said over one-third of 13,000 disposable lunch boxes went straight into the garbage, a February to March survey of 212 primary schools showed.

The survey suggested most primary schools want more funding to introduce canteens in a bid to cut down on waste.

With a mere 5 percent drop in the amount of disposable lunch boxes being junked, compared to seven years ago, Yip is calling on the Education Bureau and the Environmental Protection Department to set up regulations to control lunch-time garbage.

A resounding 95 percent of primary schools want public money to outfit them with a cafeteria.

Written Bomb Threat at Madison West High School: Letter to Parents

Principal Ed Holmes [9K PDF] via a kind reader’s email:

When Madison Schools receive any information that jeopardizes or threatens the safety of our schools, we immediately report the incident to Madison Police and consult with them to determine what the best course of action should be.
The Madison School District has well-defined protocols that are implemented anytime a threat is made against schools. The decisions regarding a response to safety situations are always made in close consultation with the Madison Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.
The safest place for students is in school where we provide structure and supervision. Therefore any decision to remove students from that environment has to be weighed carefully with a potential for placing them in a less structured environment that potentially raises other safety concerns.
These procedures were followed today at West High in response to a written bomb threat.
After consulting with District Administration, the building was searched at 6:00 a.m. using trained Madison Metropolitan School district engineers, architects and custodial supervisors. This procedure has been used in other schools under similar circumstances. Our goal is to maintain a safe educational environment for all students and staff. We have an excellent relationship with our students and encourage them to talk with us about possible issues. We ask you, as families, to help keep our lines of communication open by encouraging your students to talk about their concerns.
West High continues to be a safe place. We pledge that we will continue to focus our time, attention, and resources to keep it so.
Ed Holmes, Principal
Madison West High School [Map]

Related: Police calls near Madison high schools 1996-2006 and recent Madison police calls (the event referenced in the letter above is not present on the police call map as of this morning (3/13/2009)).

Battling childhood obesity in the US: An interview with Robert Wood Johnson’s CEO

Matt Miller & Lynn Taliento:

Obesity used to be a privilege reserved for wealthy people in wealthy countries. Now, however, this and other lifestyle diseases also afflict better-off people in poorer countries and poorer people in richer ones, particularly the United States. In 2007, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation–the biggest US philanthropy devoted solely to health care and health, with roughly $8 billion in assets–announced that it would award $500 million in grants to reverse the soaring incidence of US childhood obesity over the past 40 years. These grants support programs designed to raise levels of physical activity and improve nutrition for kids; to identify other levers for reversing the childhood obesity epidemic; and to determine, advocate, and implement the requisite policy and environmental changes. The foundation also focuses on issues such as improving the quality of the US health care system; increasing access to stable, affordable health care; strengthening the public-health system; and addressing the health needs of vulnerable populations.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, who holds both an MD and an MBA, has been president and CEO of the foundation since late 2002. Matt Miller, a senior adviser to McKinsey, and Lynn Taliento, a principal in the Washington, DC, office, interviewed her at the foundation’s headquarters,…

60 Minutes on Lowering the Drinking Age

Radley Balko:

The video below aired a couple of weeks ago, but it’s a pretty good look at the drinking age debate, with lots of camera time for Amethyst Initiative founder John McCardell.
(Note: If video isn’t working below, you can watch it here.)
One quibble: At one point in the segment, Lesley Stahl suggests that the “conundrum” for policymakers is that raising the drinking age has reduced alcohol-related traffic fatalities, but may be contributing to fatalities associated with underage binge drinking.
But there may not be a conundrum at all. When I interviewed McCardell for the February issue of Reason, he explained why the argument that raising the drinking age is responsible for the 20-year drop in highway deaths doesn’t hold water:

Parents wonder whether Madison’s school lunches are healthy for kids

Mary Ellen Gabriel:

The “hot lunch” line snakes out the door of the multipurpose room at Franklin Elementary School. Kids dressed in snow boots and parkas file past a table where a staff member is handing out plastic-wrapped containers of hot dogs and fries, canned peaches and a cookie. Forget trays or plates. The kids clutch the packages in both hands and, after a student helper plunks a carton of milk on top, hug the whole load to their chests, trying not to drop mittens and hats. They scurry into the gym and squeeze into a spot at one of the crowded lunch tables, where the “cold lunch” kids are chowing down with a 10-minute head start. Twelve minutes left before the bell rings. Better eat fast.
Is the Madison Metropolitan School District’s school lunch program unhealthy for kids?
It depends who you ask. On one side is a well-trained food service department that manages to feed 19,000 kids under a bevy of guidelines on a slim budget. On the other is a growing number of parents and community advocates armed with research about the shortcomings of mass-produced food and race-to-the-finish mealtimes.
“We’re perpetuating a fast-food mentality,” said Pat Mulvey, a personal chef and the parent of a second-grader and a kindergartner at Franklin. “We can do better.”
Mulvey has joined a small group of parents at south side Franklin and affiliated Randall Elementary calling for changes to the school lunch program. Among their concerns: a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, high fat and salt content in items perceived as “processed” or “junk food,” little nutritional information on the Web site, too much plastic, too much waste and too little time to eat.
This isn’t the first time parents in the district have raised concerns about school lunch. For the past decade, parents, educators and healthy food advocates in the Madison area have asked the School Board, principals and the district’s food service to serve more fresh foods and make lunch longer than 25 minutes.

This issue has come up a number of times over the years.

Teachers Are All That, And A Bag Of Chips


Some teachers in Oregon want to do as they do, not as they say. The state has banned the sale of junk food in schools in an effort to protect the health of kids. But under prodding from teachers, the Oregon state House approved an exception. If the measure becomes law, unhealthy snacks would be allowed in teachers’ lounges. The teachers say they’re adults and can decide for themselves whether they should eat chips.

Kids’ Cholesterol Study Is Reassuring, Doctors Say


Fewer than 1% of American teens are likely to need cholesterol drugs, says a new study that offers some reassuring news on the childhood obesity front.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued eyebrow-raising new guidelines: Doctors were urged to consider cholesterol drugs for more kids, even as young as 8, if they had high levels of “bad cholesterol,” or LDL, along with other health problems like obesity and high blood pressure.
The academy didn’t address how many children might fall into that category. Now, a new study published online Monday in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation helps allay concerns that “many, many” children might need to be on cholesterol drugs, said Stephen Daniels, lead author of the pediatric guidelines.
“The concern was I think, because there’s an increasing level in obesity, that it would lead to higher and higher cholesterol levels. They don’t seem to be going up,” he said.
The new pediatrics guidance was based on growing evidence that damage leading to heart disease begins early in life. At the same time, recent research has shown that cholesterol-fighting drugs are generally safe for children.

Is Recess Necessary?

Jay Matthews:

I often spout opinions on matters about which I know nothing, so I understand when my favorite peer group — the American people — does the same. The latest example is a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults [931K PDF] by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which specializes in public health projects, and Sports4Kids, a national nonprofit organization that supports safe and healthy playtime in low-income elementary schools.
According to the survey’s press release, “seven out of 10 Americans disagree with schools’ policies of eliminating or reducing recess time for budgetary, safety or academic reasons.” I realize most people don’t know how poisonous recess can be for urban schools with severe academic needs, but I was surprised to see the news release fail to acknowledge this. It even suggests, without qualification, that “in low-income communities” recess time “offers one of our best chances to help children develop into healthy, active adults who know how to work together and resolve conflicts.”
Few Americans have an opportunity to experience what teaching in urban schools is like. The people I know who have done so have developed a well-reasoned antipathy for the typical half-hour, go-out-and-play-but-don’t-kill-anybody recess. In my forthcoming book, “Work Hard. Be Nice,” about the Knowledge Is Power Program, I describe the classroom and playground chaos KIPP co-founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin encountered before starting their first KIPP fifth grade in a Houston public elementary school, the beginning of their successful program:

Local, Fresh Lunches Would be a Tasty Change

Margaret Krome:

My friend gave a guest presentation at a local high school last week and was invited to stay for lunch. “Horrible,” was her description of the meal. “I appreciated the generous invitation, and I’m sure the lunch ladies worked hard, but it was awful. Pizza, totally tasteless chicken sandwiches and fried food — that’s what we offer our children at school.”
Any parent who has peered into their school cafeteria’s garbage can to see what children throw out knows my friend is right. But it’s not for lack of caring on the part of school nutritionists. The amount of funding they receive for school meals is ridiculously low and not been updated for years. Fruits and vegetables are reimbursed at 10 cents a day, and the state school meal reimbursement rates haven’t changed since 1981.
But panels of legislators, medical experts, school dieticians, educators, agency staff and others have been working this year to change the situation. They are motivated largely by the high and increasing rates of overweight and obese adults in Wisconsin.
Obesity’s significance for health is clear. Being obese or overweight increases one’s risk of chronic diseases like hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and osteoarthritis. Our state’s annual obesity-related medical costs were estimated in 2004 to be $1.5 billion.

Fast food + nearby schools = fat kids

Julie Steenhuysen:

Youth who study just a short walk from a fast-food outlet eat fewer fruit and vegetables, drink more soda and are more likely to be obese than students at other schools, according to research published Tuesday.
The study, which involved more than 500,000 adolescents at middle schools and high schools in California, lends new fuel to a growing backlash against the fast-food industry as studies suggest they contribute to the rising obesity epidemic in the United States.
“We’ve basically discovered that kids who are going to a school that is near a fast-food restaurant have a higher chance of being overweight and obese than kids who are at a school that is not near a fast-food restaurant,” said Brennan Davis of Azusa Pacific University in California, whose study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.
U.S. youth obesity rates have tripled since 1980, although they leveled off this decade. The government says 32 percent of U.S. children are overweight and 16 percent are obese.

School Soda Ban Has Limited Effect Eliminating sugary beverages did not affect overall consumption, study finds


A new study suggests that cutting sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks from school cafeteria menus will have little effect on teens’ overall consumption of the beverages.
Because these drinks are believed to be a major contributor to increasing rates of childhood obesity in the United States, many schools across the nation are banning them or curbing their availability to students. To assess the impact of this strategy, researchers followed 456 students at seven schools in southern and central Maine over two school years. Four of the schools reduced the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) for one school year (intervention schools), while the other three took no action (control schools).

Children Who Live in Public Housing Suffer in School, Study Says

Manny Fernandez
New York City children who live in public housing perform worse in school than students who live in other types of housing, according to a study by New York University researchers.
The study, which is being released on Monday, found that students living in public housing are more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to graduate in four years than those who do not live in public housing.
It also showed that fifth graders living in public housing did worse on standardized math and reading tests than fifth graders who lived elsewhere. Researchers found this disparity in fifth-grade test scores even when comparing students at the same school who shared similar demographics, like race, gender and poverty status.
The report is the first large-scale study of the academic performance of children growing up in the city’s 343 public housing complexes, researchers said. They suggest that those children face social and economic hurdles at home that affect their success in the classroom and illustrate the often-overlooked role that housing can play in education. The report was done by the university’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy and its Institute for Education and Social Policy.

Obese kids have arteries of 45-year-old

John Fauber:

Neck arteries of obese children as young as 10 resembled those of a typical 45-year-old, a new study has found.
The research is more evidence that the process of artery disease can begin early in life, increasing the risk of premature heart disease in adulthood.
“These findings confirm some of our big picture concerns about childhood obesity,” said Aaron Carrel, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “It is a very direct link with disease.”
Carrel, who was not a part of the research, said artery disease in obese children was something that doctors had long suspected, but the level of disease found in the study was higher than anticipated.
UW doctors also have been finding abnormally high levels of cholesterol in obese kids ages 5 to 18, Carrel said.

Madison school cafeterias have “impressive” safety records

Melanie Conklin:

While there’s no controlling what happens once kids get their hands on the food, some of the safest public places to buy meals are Madison school cafeterias.
A review of Madison-Dane County Health Department records of Madison school cafeteria inspections showed that school scores were far better than the average restaurant score. Out of 164 Madison cafeteria inspections, 49 resulted in a perfect score of zero and 115 found no critical violations.
To put that in perspective, the average score for restaurants hovers around 20, and anything above 50 is viewed as troublesome. Madison school cafeterias averaged 3.3 over the past four years. The worst school score — Spring Harbor Middle School with a score of 22 in 2005 — was on par with restaurants. And the next two years Spring Harbor scored a perfect zero.

Are Schools Really to Blame for Poor Eating?

Tara Parker-Pope
Schools have been vilified for giving kids access to soda in vending machines. But new data suggests that school soft drink sales may not be an important factor in how much soda kids drink.
In the current issue of The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers compared soda consumption among nearly 500 students in Maine who attended seven schools over two school years. Four of the schools cut back on soft drink availability at the schools, while three of the schools made no changes.
Notably, all the students were drinking less soda by the end of the study period, but there were no meaningful differences in overall soft drink consumption among the different schools. The data suggest that curbing soft drink availability at school doesn’t result in meaningful changes in beverage consumption patterns. While there were no changes in overall soda consumption, there was a notable shift in diet soda drinking among girls. If the school cut back on soda availability, girls were less likely to drink diet soda, compared to girls in schools that made no changes.
The data are the latest to suggest that schools may not play as big of a role in kids’ poor eating habits as widely believed. Last year, The American Journal of Public Health published a provocative study showing that childhood weight problems often get worse in the summer, when kids are out of school.
Data from kindergarteners and first graders found that body mass index increased two to three times as fast in summer as during the regular school year. Minority children were especially vulnerable, as were children who were already overweight.

School Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push for Healthier Foods

Patricia Leigh Brown:

Tommy Cornelius and the other members of the Piedmont High School boys water polo team never expected to find themselves running through school in their Speedos to promote a bake sale across the street. But times have been tough since the school banned homemade brownies and cupcakes.
The old-fashioned school bake sale, once as American as apple pie, is fast becoming obsolete in California, a result of strict new state nutrition standards for public schools that regulate the types of food that can be sold to students. The guidelines were passed by lawmakers in 2005 and took effect in July 2007. They require that snacks sold during the school day contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat.
The Piedmont High water polo team falls woefully short of these standards, selling cupcakes, caramel apples and lemon bars off campus in a flagrant act of nutritional disobedience.

Needed: fresh ideas for school lunches


Do as I say, not as I do. That’s the lesson being taught every day in school cafeterias across Long Island. According to a series of Newsday reports, school lunches are high in fat and sodium, and low on fresh ingredients. Lunch programs, which are expected to pay their own way without help from the school budget, rely on chip and cookie sales – not to mention sugary soda machines – to amp up their profits.
We are sending kids all the wrong messages by placing these bad-habit-forming temptations in their paths. For a few cents more per meal, children could be eating healthfully and learning by example about good nutrition.
Sure, the few cents add up. But aren’t we already paying a price? New Yorkers spend $242 million a year to treat obesity-related illness in children, and $6.1 billion a year on adults. Studies show that overweight children often carry the weight into adulthood.

Stoughton teacher hopes to get kids stuck on fruits, veggies

Pamela Cotant:

Physical education teacher John Ames wants to teach kids about the importance of healthy eating habits while they’re young.
So for the last couple of months Ames has been spending his lunch hour in the Kegonsa Elementary School cafeteria handing out stickers to kids who eat a fruit or vegetable in their lunch. The students have been excitedly showing him empty grape vines, apple cores and banana peels — evidence that they are eating fruit.
The students placed the stickers on the large wall poster that reads, “We Go Bananas for Physical Education.” The students filled up one letter and then moved on to the next on the poster in the cafeteria, which also is the school’s gym.
Ames calls the effort Project Banana.
“I wanted to get the kids excited about physical education class and add a health component to it,” said Ames, who was wearing a yellow “Banana Man” T-shirt he found on the Internet. “Diet and exercise are the main staples to a healthy life.”

Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push for Healthier Foods

It’s not just Madison…
Patricia Leigh Brown
Tommy Cornelius and the other members of the Piedmont High School boys water polo team never expected to find themselves running through school in their Speedos to promote a bake sale across the street. But times have been tough since the school banned homemade brownies and cupcakes.
The old-fashioned school bake sale, once as American as apple pie, is fast becoming obsolete in California, a result of strict new state nutrition standards for public schools that regulate the types of food that can be sold to students. The guidelines were passed by lawmakers in 2005 and took effect in July 2007. They require that snacks sold during the school day contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat.
The Piedmont High water polo team falls woefully short of these standards, selling cupcakes, caramel apples and lemon bars off campus in a flagrant act of nutritional disobedience.

Food allergies on rise in children

Erin Richards:

One M&M, swallowed whole, and little Noelle’s skin turned as red as a Cortland apple.
A month later, after eating soy ice cream, the 2-year-old turned colors again and started drooling, prompting her mother to inject a syringe full of epinephrine into the child’s leg.
Karen Tylicki of Mukwonago has no idea why her daughter’s body treats certain foods as if they were poison. Tylicki, like parents of a growing number of food-allergic kids in Milwaukee and elsewhere around the country, is familiar with the fear, uncertainty, grief and sorrow that frequently accompany the condition.
Add hope to that list. Thanks to a La Crosse clinic that’s gaining attention for its work desensitizing patients with food allergies, Noelle, now 6, can ingest almost 2 ounces of milk without a reaction.
The spike in the number of kids with food allergies – an 18% increase nationwide over the past decade, according to a newly released study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – has prompted many schools and day-care facilities to develop new safety measures.

Healthier meals served at pricier Long Island private schools

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher:

Typical lunchtime fare includes quinoa, bean cakes, Swiss chard, fresh beets, tofu, tempeh, kimchee.
There are no sloppy joes. Hamburgers are served only three times a year during field days, and the beef is organic.
Private schools such as the Ross School in East Hampton don’t operate under the same cost constraints public schools face when attempting to serve healthy food, allowing them more freedom to go beyond traditional school cafeteria meals.
Ross’ food often is held up as a model for student dining.
A staff of 17 line chefs with impressive culinary backgrounds cook from scratch in a kitchen that rivals a five-star restaurant. And students actually like the healthy offerings, evidenced by the fact that they go through about 25 pounds of tofu per day.

Kids’ Cereals Saltier, Report Says

Julie Jargon & Aaron Patrick:

Cereal makers that reduce the amount of sugar in kids’ cereals tend to ratchet up the salt content to improve flavor, says a report expected to be released Tuesday by Consumers International.
Cereal makers have been under pressure from consumer groups to reduce the sugar content of their kids’ cereals, and Consumers International, in its report, “Cereal Offenses,” says “manufacturers are likely to add salt to boost the flavor of the product, and may use salt to maintain customer appeal when sugar levels are reduced.”
The London-based organization, an umbrella group representing 220 consumer groups globally, focused on products made by two of the world’s largest makers of cereal for children, Nestlé SA of Vevey, Switzerland, and Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich. The group defined children’s cereals as those that feature cartoon characters on the packaging, are endorsed by celebrities popular with kids and are advertised on kids’ television programming.

3 Madison schools offer free fresh fruit, veggies

The Capital Times:

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program has expanded to 56 schools in Wisconsin this year, including three Madison elementary schools, providing free fresh fruit and vegetables during the school day to all students wanting a quick nutritious snack.
The state received $870,994 in the national farm bill for the program, which works out to $51 per student for the 17,000 state students served.
The program started in 2002 as a way to combat obesity in kids. Funding is geared to schools with a higher incidence of students from economically disadvantaged families.
Madison schools getting funding through the program for fresh fruits and vegetables include Falk Elementary ($15,700), Glendale Elementary ($20,696) and Hawthorne Elementary ($16,312).

Schools Sans Sodas

Jennifer Huget:

Substantial headway has been made lately in getting sugary (and high-fructose corn syrup-laden) sodas out of schools.
But that might not make much difference in kids’ overall soda consumption.
Both pieces of news came across my desk as I was writing today’s “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column about school lunch nutrition. Together they demonstrate how daunting a goal it is to try to change eating and drinking habits — other people’s and our own.
The good news, coming from the American Beverage Association, is that sweetened soft drinks accounted for less than 25 percent of beverages sold in schools last year; that’s down from 40 percent in 2004. The ABA has been working with the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation (as in former President Bill) to affect a shift toward healthier drinks — those with fewer calories and offered in smaller portions than your standard can of pop — in schools. Bottled water has filled much of the gap, moving from 13 percent of the beverages sold in schools in 2004 to almost 28 percent last year.

Reinventing the School Lunch


Speaking at the 2007 EG conference, “renegade lunch lady” Ann Cooper shares her passionate belief in remaking the school lunch. She uses scathing language to describe how most American kids are fed at the noon bell, out of cans, boxes and plastic bags — sowing the seeds of the obesity epidemic that is spreading from the US around the globe. But, she says, there’s a coming revolution in the way kids eat at school — local, sustainable, seasonal and even educational food. (Recorded December 2007 in Los Angeles, California. Duration: 19:42.)

Schools Sour on Giving Students Sweet Rewards

Daniel de Vise:

Schools around the Washington region are quietly removing Jolly Ranchers and Tootsie Pops from the teacher’s desk, ending a long tradition of rewarding classroom obeisance with candy.
In the District and many suburbs, school systems have imposed rules during the past two years that discourage teachers from using candy or other junk food as an incentive. Some policies reject any offer of food as reward, or denial of food as punishment, on the theory that students should not be taught it is a privilege to eat.
Regulation of classroom candy is part of a broader “wellness” movement that has swept public schools this decade. Federal law required school systems to establish rules by fall 2006 to govern Gummi Worms in cafeterias and sodas in vending machines, birthday cupcake parties and Halloween binges, physical education and recess, as well as the proliferation of candy and other food of questionable nutritional value in contests, promotions and everyday classroom activities.

Healthy school meal vs a Big Mac. Which one wins? Ask your inner child

Tim Hayward:

England is bringing in ‘the most robust nutrient standards for school lunches in the world’ – but we might have to force them down children’s throats
This week “the most robust nutrient standards for school lunches in the world” come into force in English primary schools. The new menus announced by the schools secretary, Ed Balls, include healthy versions of lunchroom standards – “from traditional roasts to chilli con carne and shepherd’s pie; from homemade salmon fingers and stir fries to risotto, with fresh fruit, vegetables and salads”.
Junk food is already banned from school canteens and vending machines – but the new standards specify the maximum (fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt) and minimum (carbohydrate, protein, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, calcium, iron, zinc) nutrient value of an average school lunch.
Getting high-quality food into schools is only half the issue. According to Balls, many children who eat healthy lunches at primary school stop when they go to senior school – put off by long queues, unpopular menus or having to eat in the same room as teenagers six or seven years older. The guidelines move into new territory by suggesting kids won’t be put off school meals if they are treated “like the paying customers they are”.

Schools warned of pupils hooked on energy drinks

Polly Curtis:

Children are becoming dependent on energy drinks that have dramatic effects on their concentration and behaviour in schools, drug experts have warned.
Schools are being advised to observe children for signs of agitation which could be a result of excessive caffeine consumption. It follows reports of pupils drinking large quantities of energy drinks or taking caffeine-based pills.
The warning, from the anti-drugs advisory group Drug Education UK, comes as ministers prepare to unveil new measures tomorrow to improve school dinners and advise parents on children’s packed lunches.
Bob Tait, from Drug Education UK, said: “There is a growing problem of caffeine abuse in schools. Most schools have a drug education programme to advise kids against illegal drugs, but there is less known about legal highs.”
He made his warning at a conference of school nurses this week, the Nursing Standard reported. Tait said: “Children will drink them on the walk to school, at break and lunch time. If you have got a child who is worked up on an energy drink, they are going to be agitated during lesson time.”

Soda Bans & Schools

Rosie Mestel:

Eliminate soft drinks at schools and you’ll make a change in how many sodas the nation’s kids slurp down, right? Hmm. A new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Assn. suggests that the effect is less than huge.
The study, by Meenakshi Fernandes at the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, analyzed data from nearly 11,000 fifth-graders in more than 2,000 schools in 40 states. She looked at how many soft drinks the kids consumed overall, and how many soft drinks they consumed in school. She also compared the consumption rates for kids who went to schools that banned soft drinks with those that permitted them.
Fernandes’ conclusion from this: Soft drink bans in schools led to a 4% reduction in soft drink consumption. “Greater reductions in children’s consumption of soft drinks will require policy changes that go beyond food availability in school,” she writes.

Spot on Popularity Scale Speaks to the Future; Middle Has Its Rewards

Benedict Carey:

The cult of popularity that reigns in high school can look quaint from a safe distance, like your 20th reunion. By then the social order may have turned over like an hourglass: teenagers who were socially invisible have emerged as colorful characters, confident, transformed. Others seem preserved in time, same as ever, while some former princes and queen bees are diminished or simply absent, now invisible themselves.
For years researchers focused much attention on those prominent teenagers, tracking their traits and behaviors. The studies found, to no one’s surprise, that social dominance in adolescence often involves an aggressive, selfish streak that may not play well outside the locker-lined corridors.
The cult disbands, and the rules change.
Yet high school students know in their gut that popularity is far more than a superficial, temporary competition, and in recent years psychologists have confirmed that intuition. The newer findings suggest that adolescents’ niche in school — their popularity, and how they understand and exploit it — offers important clues to their later psychological well-being.

To Be Young and Anxiety-Free

Andrea Petersen:

Last fall, 12-year-old John Morganti was a very anxious kid. He was too scared to ride the bus to school or have sleepovers at friends’ houses. He had frequent stomachaches, hid out in the nurse’s office and begged his mother to let him skip school.
“He would get so scared, he would be in a little ball in the corner,” says John’s mother, Danielle Morganti, of Pittsgrove, N.J.
John was later diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and underwent a treatment known as cognitive behavioral therapy. By spring, he had largely recovered and was happily taking the bus and playing with friends at parties.
Historically, anxiety disorders were seen as something that primarily hit teens and adults. Anxious kids, many experts thought, would simply grow out of their fears. But now, many doctors believe that John’s illness was caught at the ideal time. Indeed, there’s a new push by doctors and therapists to identify children afflicted with anxiety disorders — even those as young as preschool age — and treat them early.

Eat Up, Kids, This Spud’s for You

Anne Marie Chaker:

Karen Kleinkopf, whose two daughters attend Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta, Maine, visited the cafeteria at lunchtime one day last fall. “The response was incredible,” she says. “Little kids were eating organic potatoes saying, ‘I love this. Can we have this every day?’ ”
Union No. 74 school district in Damariscotta is on a mission to freshen up its cafeteria menu. Starting with a pilot project last year, the district of four schools, kindergarten through eighth grade, began working with farmers to get local produce onto lunch menus. Salad veggies and potatoes came from Goranson Farm in nearby Dresden, while Spear’s Farm in Waldoboro provided corn on the cob. For 15 weeks, these items replaced the tougher, well-traveled veggies typically bought from large distributors.
The kids ate the stuff up, with cafeteria workers reporting as much as one-third less “plate waste” than with the typical fare, says Michael Sanborn, the district’s nutrition director.

College Students Behaving Badly

Tara Parker-Pope:

Many people associate property crime and other delinquent behaviors with low social status and a lack of education. But new research has identified a surprising risk factor for bad behavior — college.
Men who attend college are more likely to commit property crimes during their college years than their non-college-attending peers, according to research to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Boston this weekend.
Sociologists at Bowling Green State University in Ohio examined data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which tracks education, crime levels, substance abuse and socializing among adolescents and young adults. Beginning with 9,246 students who were seventh through twelfth graders in the 1994-1995 academic year, the survey followed the students again in 1996 and 2001. The study defined “college students” or “college-bound youth” as those who were enrolled full-time in a four-year college for at least 12 months by the third wave of the survey. “Non-college students” were defined as those respondents who either did not attend college through the course of the study or were not enrolled full-time at a four-year university.

Dreams for school’s accessible playground prove boundless

The Capital Times:

Members of the Elvehjem Elementary School community, including students, teachers, parents and other supporters of a unique idea, watched Friday as groundbreaking occurred for a playground designed to be inclusionary to all.
The new playground is designed for use by all kids, including those with disabilities who could not participate in play with their peers on older models of playgrounds.
Last year members of the Elvehjem community decided to enter a national contest for a Boundless Playground and submitted an essay they hoped would win the day for the east side school. But they fell just short, finishing third out of 900 entries.

School Is Out, and Nutrition Takes a Hike

Tara Parker-Pope:

As my 9-year-old daughter began summer day camp last week, we talked about swimming rules, sunscreen and … cheese fries.
It was at summer camp a few years ago that she first experienced the culinary joy of cheese fries, which can pack 800 or more calories in a serving. Her camp is typical of those around the country: days packed with archery, swimming and adventure climbing; menus packed with soft drinks, burgers, chicken nuggets and, once a week, cheese fries.
Camp food is just one of the summertime nutrition challenges for parents these days. While childhood health advocates often blame schools for poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity, the problem often gets worse in the summer. Last year, The American Journal of Public Health published a provocative study showing that schools may be taking too much of the blame for the childhood obesity epidemic.
Data from kindergarteners and first graders found that body mass index increased two to three times as fast in summer as during the regular school year. Minority children were especially vulnerable, as were children who were already overweight.

Study: Many teens get alcohol from adults

Hope Yen:

Many of the nation’s estimated 10.8 million underage drinkers are turning to their parents or other adults for free alcohol.
A government survey of teens from 2002 to 2006 said slightly more than half had engaged in underage drinking.
Asked about the source of alcohol, 40 percent they got it from an adult for free over the past month, the survey said. Of those, about one in four said they got it from an unrelated adult, one in 16 got it from a parent or guardian and one in 12 got it from another adult family member.
Roughly 4 percent reported taking the alcohol from their own home.
“In far too many instances parents directly enable their children’s underage drinking — in essence encouraging them to risk their health and well-being,” said acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson. “Proper parental guidance alone may not be the complete solution to this devastating public health problem — but it is a critical part.”


Doctors in Madison said this problem is real and they’ve seen some young teens come in with alcohol poisoning.
Physicians fear drinking at a young age can lead not only to lower performance in school and stressed relationships with family members but can also lead to more serious problems later in life, WISC-TV reported.

Public Milwaukee Boarding School by 2011?

Dani McClain:

A coalition of prominent Milwaukeeans working to establish an urban boarding school for at-risk youth today announced its intention to raise between $30 million and $40 million in private funds to support opening a school in three years.
The Wisconsin Coalition for a Public Boarding School also plans to attempt to persuade legislators to allocate state funding for the college-prep program, the initiative’s leaders said today at a media event at the Charles Allis Art Museum.
The school would open in 2011 with 80 sixth-grade students and with an initial state contribution of around $2 million. If the coalition can persuade the Legislature to back the initiative, the school would reach full public funding by 2017 with an annual state contribution of around $10 million, said Jeanette Mitchell, community adviser to the Washington, D.C.-based SEED Foundation.

More from the Milwaukee Business Journal.

LA Tries to Put the “Wow” in School Lunches

Mary MacVean:

Mark Baida was pleased with his latest taste test: lots of empty little black trays, sometimes stacked three deep in front of his guinea pigs, a group of Garfield High School students.
But the pressure is on the new executive chef of the Los Angeles Unified School District: Demands are growing from parent groups, the school board and students for food that is delicious, healthful, served quickly — and really, really inexpensive. In the last few years, the school board has banned soda and set standards for salt and fat, among other things. Now the aim is to make it more appealing too.

Childhood Obesity Rates Stop Rising

Rob Stein:

The obesity epidemic may have peaked among U.S. children, halting a decades-long trend of inexorably expanding waistlines among the nation’s youngest and most vulnerable, federal health officials reported yesterday.
A new analysis of the most recent data collected by an ongoing government survey, considered the most authoritative on the subject, detected the first sign since the 1980s that the proportion of 2-to-19-year-olds who are overweight may have stopped rising, the National Center for Health Statistics reported.

Friend or Foe: The scoop on Toki lunches

Monika Hetzler & Erika Rodriguez:

Ask Toki Middle School students how they feel about school lunches, and you’ll get varied responses. Some say they never eat it, while others claim “it’s the best lunch I’ve had!” Whether people like the food or not isn’t necessarily indicative of the healthfulness of school lunches.
University of Wisconsin nutritionist Marcy Braun said the nutritional value of school lunches could be “greatly improved” and described her ideal school lunch.
“Well, first, I would make the lunch period longer,” said Braun, adding that if schools provided more space and played music during lunch, it would “make the room more alive,” which could be a “key factor” in creating a better environment.

Via Isthmus.

Obesity Threatens a Generation

Susan Levine & Rob Stein:

In ways only beginning to be understood, being overweight at a young age appears to be far more destructive to well-being than adding excess pounds later in life. Virtually every major organ is at risk. The greater damage is probably irreversible.
Doctors are seeing confirmation of this daily: boys and girls in elementary school suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and painful joint conditions; a soaring incidence of type 2 diabetes, once a rarity in pediatricians’ offices; even a spike in child gallstones, also once a singularly adult affliction. Minority youth are most severely affected, because so many are pushing the scales into the most dangerous territory.
With one in three children in this country overweight or worse, the future health and productivity of an entire generation — and a nation — could be in jeopardy.

Northside Elementary Wins Governor’s Health Award

Jason Dean:

Middleton’s Northside Elementary School was one of 27 schools in the state to earn the Silver Award in the 2008 Governor’s School Health Awards program.
First lady Jessica Doyle and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster announced the winners on Thursday.
“These awards recognize schools for developing and maintaining quality school health programs, and for involving parents and the community to improve the long-term health of the students,” Burmaster said.
“Healthier students support healthier communities, which in turn support a healthier Wisconsin,” Doyle said.

Caught in a Swirl of Drug Violence, Mexico Vows to Fight Back

James McKinley:

President Felipe Calderón and dozens of federal agents attended the funeral of the chief of the federal police on Friday morning, a day after his assassination, even as investigators focused on the possibility that someone inside the police force had tipped off the killers to his location.
The services for the federal police chief, Commander Edgar Millán Gómez, and two other agents killed in the line of duty this week started just a half-hour after four armed men shot and killed a commander in Mexico City’s police force outside his home.
Newspapers here, moreover, were full of reports of battles between drug gangs in Sinaloa State, including one involving a bazooka. A sense that violence by organized crime had spun out of control seemed to hang over the country.
After the service, Mr. Calderón, escorted by heavier security than usual, traveled to Tamaulipas State on the border with Texas, where drug dealers have clashed repeatedly with troops and the federal police, to send the message that his administration would not be intimidated by Mr. Millán’s assassination.

School garden programs hope to change kids’ relationship with food

Dina Maccabee:

One warm winter day at Ruus Elementary in south Hayward, Chef Tiffany sweeps a roomful of second-graders into their only cooking class of the year. Before long, they’re shouting out the names of body parts that benefit from fresh veggies: “Eyes!” “Teeth!” “Heart!” And even if Swiss chard elicits a wary silence, the kids already know spinach from bok choy, and Chef Tiffany, known to adults as Tiffany Chenoweth, smoothly transitions from her talking points about leafy greens into the hands-on section of the class (after delivering a squirt of antibacterial gel onto the palms of each child). Meanwhile, out past the bustling blacktop, garden instructor Rachel Harris walks an ethnically diverse group of third graders through the concept of soil enrichment.

Contraband candy = Skittles suspension


Contraband candy has led to big trouble for an eighth-grade honors student in Connecticut.
Michael Sheridan was stripped of his title as class vice president, barred from attending an honors student dinner and suspended for a day after buying a bag of Skittles from a classmate.
School spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo says the New Haven school system banned candy sales in 2003 as part of a district wide school wellness policy.
Michael’s suspension has been reduced from three days to one, but he has not been reinstated as class vice president.

Joanne has more.

The Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Program


The Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch program helps Madison school kids understand where food really comes from.
Joe LaBarbera takes us on a journey that follows some of the students to the farm where some of it grows.
Doug Wubben is a project coordinator for Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch — working to give kids their first real taste of life on the farm — and a lesson in the first link of the food chain that eventually leads to their plate.
While this is about bringing the kids to the farm – sometimes they’ll actually bring farmers into the classroom.
“This year, and also last year, we had a couple farmer educators come out and they did some workshops in the classroom,” Teacher Marissa Carr-Flowers says.
These kids are learning how to plant seeds, grow food and spend a day away from their classroom. make no mistake — they are still learning.

When cheers turn to depression

Stan Grossfeld:

She just wanted six-pack abs. So in the summer of 2003, Dionne Passacantando, a 17-year-old high school cheerleader, gymnast, and vice president of her Allen (Texas) High School class, made a decision she regrets. She bought anabolic steroids from a boy on the school football team.
“Nobody frowned upon it,” she says. “It was easier for me to get those than it probably was to buy beer.”
But after injecting herself with Winstrol every other day for five weeks, she became suicidal.
“I was the last person in the world you’d think would use anabolic steroids,” she says.
Her story is part of a much larger picture. The Mitchell Report, which detailed steroid use in major league baseball, noted that while steroid use among high schoolers seems to be declining, it is still estimated that 3-6 percent of students nationally have tried them. That means that, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of high school students are using.

Baltimore Battles Childhood Obesity

John Fritze:

Baltimore should improve access to fresh produce and recreational activities in low-income neighborhoods to stem childhood obesity, according to a City Council task force report released yesterday.
“This is more serious than smoking,” said City Councilwoman Agnes Welch, who has overseen the issue in the council. “Let this be a movement: We’re going to stop childhood obesity in the city of Baltimore.”
The report recommends creating health zones in which city officials would work with schools, food stores and churches in three- to four-block areas to ensure that healthy food is available and that children have safe places to be physically active.

Kids Count Update on Children’s Well-Being

The Annie E. Casey Foundation:

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT online database has a whole new look and feel. Now featuring child well-being measures for the 50 largest U.S. cities, this powerful tool contains more than 100 indicators, including the most recent data available on education, employment and income, poverty, health, and youth risk factors for the United States as a whole, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Putting on Weight for Football Glory

Jere Longman:

When the Desire Street Academy football team plays in a Louisiana state semifinal playoff game Friday night, the Lions will feature three starting linemen who weigh at least 300 pounds and two others who weigh 270 and 280 pounds, reflecting a trend in which high school players are increasingly reaching a size once seen almost exclusively among linemen in college and the N.F.L.
High school football rosters reveal weight issues that go beyond the nation’s overall increase in obesity rates among children. Two studies this year, one published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and another in The Journal of Pediatrics, found that weight problems among high school football players — especially linemen — far outpaced those of other male children and adolescents.
Now coaches and researchers fear that some young athletes may be endangering their health in an effort to reach massive proportions and attract the attention of college recruiters.
“The old saying was, ‘Wait till you get to college to make it a business,’” said Rusty Barrilleaux, the coach at Hammond High in southeastern Louisiana and a former offensive lineman at Louisiana State. “It’s still fun, but if you want to get to college, you have to get that size. The pressure is definitely on.”

Lawmakers Consider School Food Limits

Kim Severson:

Federal lawmakers are considering the broadest effort ever to limit what children eat: a national ban on selling candy, sugary soda and salty, fatty food in school snack bars, vending machines and à la carte cafeteria lines.
Whether the measure, an amendment to the farm bill, can survive the convoluted politics that have bogged down that legislation in the Senate is one issue. Whether it can survive the battle among factions in the fight to improve school food is another.
Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, has twice before introduced bills to deal with foods other than the standard school lunch, which is regulated by Department of Agriculture.
Several lawmakers and advocates for changes in school food believe that an amendment to the $286 billion farm bill is the best chance to get control of the mountain of high-calorie snacks and sodas available to school children. Even if the farm bill does not pass, Mr. Harkin and Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, who is also sponsoring the amendment, vow to keep reintroducing it in other forms until it sticks.

Fear and Allergies in the Lunchroom

Claudia Kalb:

About 11 million Americans suffer from food allergies, and their numbers are climbing. Allergists also say they’re seeing more children with multiple allergies. Why do allergies appear to be on the rise? One of the most intriguing theories, dubbed the “hygiene hypothesis,” is that we’ve all become too clean. The immune system is designed to battle dangerous foreign invaders like parasites and viruses and infections. But clean water, antibiotics and vaccines have eliminated some of our most toxic challenges. Research even posits that kids born by Caesarean section, which have risen 40 percent in the last decade, could be at higher risk for allergies, perhaps because they were never exposed to healthy bacteria in their mothers’ birth canals.

Madison schools’ lunch period isn’t what it used to be

Andy Hall:

And somehow, in a time window one third the size that many adults take for lunch, 215 young children crowd around picnic-style tables, consume chicken nuggets — or whatever they brought from home — and hustle outside to play.
Squeezed by tight school budgets, the federal No Child Left Behind law and Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction rules on instructional time, the school lunch period isn’t what it used to be in many school districts.
ver the years,” said Frank Kelly, food services director of the Madison School District, who estimates that overall, school lunch periods in the district have been trimmed about 10 minutes over the past 10 years.
“I don’t think people are going to accept anything less than this.”
In fact, in response to complaints from parents four years ago, Madison officials eased the lunch crunch a bit for elementary students by using the last five minutes of the class period before lunch to move students to the cafeteria.
There was talk four years ago of expanding the elementary lunch period to 35 minutes. But the idea was dropped after officials estimated it might cost more than $2 million to pay teachers and lunch supervisors.
“We don’t have much flexibility in extending that,” said Sue Abplanalp, an assistant superintendent who oversees Madison’s elementary schools.
While DPI leaves it up to local officials to determine the length of lunch periods, Madison educators say they believe they attain a decent compromise by giving:
•Elementary students 20 minutes.
•Middle school students 30 to 34 minutes.
•High school students about 35 minutes (except at West High School, where most students get 55 minutes under a plan initiated last year).
Those schedules are typical of what’s found around Wisconsin, said Kelly, who has worked in food service for 31 years.
“For most of our people, it works very well,” Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater said.

Sugar Finds Its Way Back to the School Cafeteria

Andrew Martin:

STUNG by harsh publicity about fat kids and threatened with lawsuits, the nation’s three largest beverage companies finally got some love last year when they voluntarily agreed to remove sugary drinks from schools.
In the place of soda and sugar-laden beverages, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cadbury Schweppes agreed that only water, low-fat milk and 100 percent juice would be offered in elementary and middle schools. In high schools, sports drinks, light juices and diet drinks would also be allowed.
The announcement was brokered by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a collaboration of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, and it was widely praised. Former President Bill Clinton, who attended the press conference, called the decision “courageous.”
“Shrewd” was probably a better word.

The School Cafeteria, on a Diet

Andrew Martin:

As students return to school this week, some are finding an unusual entry on the list of class rules: no cupcakes.
School districts across the country have been taking steps to make food in schools healthier because of new federal guidelines and awareness that a growing number of children are overweight.
In California, deep fryers have been banned, so chicken nuggets and fries are now baked. Sweet tea is off the menu in one Alabama school. In New Jersey, 20-ounce sports drinks have been cut back to 12 ounces.
Food and beverage companies have scrambled to offer healthier alternatives in school cafeterias and vending machines, and some of the changes have been met with a shrug by students. The whole-wheat chocolate-chip cookies? “Surprisingly, the kids have kind of embraced them,” said Laura Jacobo, director of food services at Woodlake Union schools in California.