Should schools be responsible for childhood obesity prevention?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

But even as the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to ban campus junk food sales, First Lady Michelle Obama touts the benefits of exercise and cafeteria turkey tacos, and school districts struggle to meet the more rigorous new federal nutrition standards, a larger question looms: How much can educators really do to influence a student's wellness?

Author Roxana Elden, who teaches high school English in Miami, Fla., said that while she supports the feds' campus junk food ban - which will take effect in the fall of 2014 --there isn't much schools can do to control the contents of the lunchboxes kids bring from home.

When she taught fourth grade in Houston a few years ago, Flamin' Hot Cheetos were particularly popular among her students so Elden decided to use them as part of a lesson on how to read nutritional labels. (It's worth noting some school districts already prohibit kids from bringing the snack food to campus.) Her lecture didn't exactly go as planned.

"I tried to emphasize how bad this particular food was for your health," Elden told me. "After the lesson the kids asked if they could eat the bag of Hot Cheetos. It turns out that as I was giving my passionate speech, they were gazing longingly at the bag and mostly thinking, 'Mmmm, Hot Cheetos.'"

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