Yes, we have an obesity problem among our children. But it is unclear if high calorie, high fat foods are mostly to blame.
Chips, soda, candy bars, and other snacks have been sold in schools for decades. The problem isn't so much what kids eat - especially since even nutritionists admit that children need more fat and calories than adults in their diet - but rather their lack of exercise.
We have the most sedentary youth in the industrialized world and getting kids into healthy physical activities will go much farther in reducing their weight than any ban on candy bars.
The rules, required under a child nutrition law passed by Congress in 2010, are part of the government's effort to combat childhood obesity. While many schools already have improved their lunch menus and vending machine choices, others still are selling high-fat, high-calorie foods.
Under the proposal, the Agriculture Department would set fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits on almost all foods sold in schools. Current standards already regulate the nutritional content of school breakfasts and lunches that are subsidized by the federal government, but most lunchrooms also have "a la carte" lines that sell other foods. Food sold through vending machines and in other ways outside the lunchroom has never before been federally regulated.
"Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, and these efforts should be supported when kids walk through the schoolhouse door," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
Most snacks sold in school would have to have less than 200 calories. Elementary and middle schools could sell only water, low-fat milk or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice. High schools could sell some sports drinks, diet sodas and iced teas, but the calories would be limited. Drinks would be limited to 12-ounce portions in middle schools and to 8-ounce portions in elementary schools.
The standards will cover vending machines, the "a la carte" lunch lines, snack bars and any other foods regularly sold around school. They would not apply to in-school fundraisers or bake sales, though states have the power to regulate them. The new guidelines also would not apply to after-school concessions at school games or theater events, goodies brought from home for classroom celebrations, or anything students bring for their own personal consumption.
It's come to this; regulating bake sales. If government wants to take the time to do that, perhaps they can spend an equal amount of time thinking up ways to get kids off their butts and engaging in exercise and physical pursuits. It seems to me far less brainpower has been brought to bear on solving the exercise problem than the candy bar problem.