by: Mena Mohamed
With the new school year comes new changes for FCPS and Stuart, specifically in the way that students eat and exercise. A change noticed by both students and staff is the lack of any cupcakes, Chick-fil-a, or crepes sold after school in the main lobby for club and sport fundraisers. Why is this? These new changes, which have been largely looked down upon both at Stuart and nationwide, stem from new regulations set in D.C.
Dealing with obesity has always been controversial. Are Americans overweight? Yes. According to the Weight Control Information Network, approximately 70 percent of adults and 30 percent of children in the US are considered to be overweight or obese. Is obesity in Americans dangerous? Yes. Obesity in any person can directly lead to fatal diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and can dramatically increase the chance of cancer and stroke diagnosis. Do Americans support change on this touchy issue? Surprisingly, no.
Scientists speculate that this generation of youth will be the first in American history to pass away from dangerous lifestyle choices at younger ages than their parents. In response to this morbid statistic, some even go as far as to say that at this point in time, obesity is not only a health issue, it is a national security issue, as cited in the report Too Fat To Fight. Although this title is usually given to terrorist bombings and threats of nuclear warfare, health organizations called on Washington to deal with this troubling issue with the same urgency used to combat other national security threats, and rightly so. It is not surgery or pills that will cure this epidemic right at its source, it is a change of lifestyle; for children and teenagers, healthy choices at school make up a considerably large portion of this lifestyle.
Washington answered this call with two initiatives – the Let’s Move! campaign and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010. Combined, these federal initiatives drastically changed the way schools are supposed to view nutrition and exercise. Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program, including Stuart and other FCPS schools, are rewarded subsidies for adhering to set nutritional values; they must ensure that fruits and vegetables are readily available, substantially increase whole-grained food, decrease sodium and fats, and have a set calorie intake for students at breakfast and lunch.
However, these efforts to attack obesity have been publicly attacked despite their rather noble effort to attempt to change the future for America’s posterity. Although this change is clearly not one wanted by students used to consuming foods that while tasty, are not good for them, it is something that is necessary. It may induce anger in some students, but just like any change, as the years continue, it will become the normalcy that Obama dreams it to be.
Although the school lunch part of the bill is making headway for change, another facet of regulation that has been introduced this year is not working up to par with its predecessor. Those brownies and cookies have not mysteriously disappeared from Stuart’s main lobby; they are no longer allowed to be sold there. According to the USDA, clubs and sports are no longer allowed to hold food and bake sales on school grounds unless the items presented follow strict nutrition guidelines.
It’s no secret that selling cookies is easier than selling whole grain crackers. Funding is already low for many clubs, and this addition to the list of restrictions will do nothing to help Stuart’s struggling student organizations. Additionally, if students are restricted from selling these products, why is it then that schools can still sell soda and chips in the vending machines and profit from it? This presents an angle of hypocrisy that does not in fact encourage students to make nutritional choices; it only angers them. The bake sale regulation is neither necessary nor beneficial to students. They are not a daily occurrence that must be heavily regulated, and cutting off such vital source of funding to students can have detrimental effects to student organizations.
All in all, efforts to decrease obesity in the US have been long overdue, but have finally arrived. While the lack of bake sales is unfortunate, other fundraising options can be found until this is hopefully reversed. Approaching the school lunch changes with malice is just as bad as consuming pounds of junk food; it’s ill-advised. Remaining deaf and blind to the fact that American children are being led on a self-destructive path will not help anyone in the future, it will only allow them to delude themselves in the present.
Photo by Mena Mohamed