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Preventing Child Obesity
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Preventing Child Obesity

Working for the past two years in an elementary school, I have been disheartened with the changes in children's nutritional programs and physical activities.

We talk constantly about the growing concerns of our children getting overweight, but are we headed in the right direction in preventing child obesity?

I think it is interesting how years ago we had Physical Education (PE) everyday, for an hour. We would always do general calethstetics (including jumping jacks, push ups, pull ups, sit ups, lunges, squats, etc.) and then we would play volleyball, basketball, Danish round ball, rope climbing, and more.

In addition to having PE each day, we had two short recesses; one morning and one afternoon, plus one long recess following lunch.

Speaking of lunches, they were filled with variety that we actually ate and enjoyed. There was no worry or concern with "too many calories" because we wore them all off!

As years have passed, PE is becoming a thing of the past. In our district, elementary school children have PE for 30 minutes, once a week! We talk about child obesity like it is an epidemic, but instead of getting our children active while at school, we just keep cutting calories and activities.

We keep pushing for greater academic performance, but at the same time we are cutting their source of brain energy and physical activity that keeps us alert.

In the past two years, the school lunch programs have also suffered. If you were to go to any school, the waste would appall you. The amount of "healthy" food being dumped in the trash is sickening. No matter how healthy the food is, if our children won't eat it, they aren't benefiting from it.

Do I think we need to feed our kids junk? Of course not, but reality is, the food that is getting served to our children is miserable. The restrictions being placed on the cooks in the lunchroom by Federal regulations are ridiculous.

Certainly don't drown the food in salt and margarine, but let's be honest with ourselves. How many of us would eat food without salt, margarine/butter, and seasonings? The food is bland and a lot of the food isn't what children typically eat.

I think we've missed the boat when it comes to children's health. Instead of reducing calories; increase activity! Our school counselor caught that same vision. During recess he would have a running program, students could earn points which they would eventually earn prizes.

He volunteered his time and he gave up his lunchtime each day, but he was passionate about getting the students out and running hard. Too much of recess is "hanging out"; it isn't the same as running and playing hard.

Another interesting point are the snacks that can be sold at schools. I think it is interesting how we received an "approved" list of snacks that could be sold at our student store. We were regulated by the size of the item, and the items are very specific by brand, size of package, etc. For example, we could sell Kellogg's rice crispy treats but they had to be a specific size. The only thing, students could buy 5 of them if they chose.

I guess I'm curious why we have spent so many federal dollars coming up with programs that are wasteful and not common sense driven.

The kids (and many faculty) won't eat the meals because they taste miserable. Schools are losing revenue because kids refuse to eat the meals. That should be saying something.

We've taken away Physical Education, which has resulted in fewer calories being burned. Anyone that is healthy knows that you need calories and physical activity to keep blood flowing to the brain and body for optimal health.

We think we have made such tremendous strides with modern technology and education; but the real question is, have we really made progress?

It seems to me that if schools were once again entrusted to make responsible decisions, get the government out of the picture, and let them reintegrate PE and good meals back into the schools, everyone would be better off.

I know when I eat a good meal (following that great food pyramid that we had in school years ago) and I work out everyday, I have productive energy and I am more alert, are children any different? School nutrition programs are important, we just need to be a bit more reasonable; if they don't eat it, they aren't benefiting from it!


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