Taking on Childhood Obesity

The politics of obesity are complex, indeed. As legislators in Ohio found out, even something as simple as increasing recess time can run into snags. In the Buckeye State, teachers unions are opposing legislation to require 30 minutes of exercise per day on the grounds that it will take away from class time. On the school lunch side of things, everybody from organic foodies to animal rights activists like the phony-baloney “Physicians Committee” for Responsible Medicine wants to dictate federal guidelines. And British chef Jamie Oliver, who filmed a short TV series about trying to reform school food in America’s most obese city, ran into stumbling blocks as his own “food revolution” was widely rejected among kids and parents.

At some point, it may not seem worth the trouble. But as we told readers of Kentucky’s Courier-Journal yesterday, it’s important that a few bumps in the road not discourage true reform on the lunch tray, in the playground, and in local communities, so long as it’s not singularly focused:

Despite the publicity, Oliver's British Invasion was a dud. He swapped out French fries and soda for brown rice and skim milk, but the kids took one look at the new food and said, "yuck." In a follow-up episode a few months later, he returned to Huntington and found that most kids were bringing their own unhealthy food from home.

Oliver's troubles highlight a familiar problem: You can put peas and carrots on the plate, but that doesn't mean your kids will eat them. While it's absolutely a good idea to serve healthier meals, we must remember that getting kids to eat healthy is easier said than done….

Spending more time on the playground may actually yield benefits in the classroom. A review of 50 studies released this spring by the CDC found that recess can improve students' attentiveness and concentration, and more time in P.E. class can boost test scores, too. More recess, better learning, better health: It's a win-win-win scenario for parents, teachers, and kids.

Read the whole piece here.

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