Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Boston Globe on candy in school

Tracy Jan writes about candy in school in today's Boston Globe. The article (in the news section) makes the case against banning candy sales in schools, on grounds that kids will bring their own candy in.

The headline is: "A sweet tooth is tough to pull -- Even when schools ban candy machines, pupils indulge."

Rhetorically, the article sets the candy sales bans up for failure by comparing them to an unrealistic goal -- the ability to "control" all of what students eat.

Like Mildred Avenue in Dorchester, dozens of schools across the Bay State -- including some in Natick, Framingham, Billerica, and Marlborough -- offer vending machines stocked exclusively with healthy choices.

But a lunchtime visit to Mildred Avenue yesterday showed that school officials and lawmakers cannot control what students eat by changing what is sold in vending machines. Children bring candy and other snacks from home or buy them on their way to school. And they don't think the proposed law would change their eating habits.

I think any sensible advocate for candy sales bans would say the goals are to reduce the ubiquitous presence of candy sales, and to end the hypocrisy of having adults in school preach good nutrition and at the same time make money selling candy to the kids, all during an epidemic of childhood obesity. The candy sales bans look to me like great policy, by those more realistic standards.

Jan's next paragraph makes things worse by quoting, without rebuttal, a student's justification for preferring to keep candy sales in school.
'Sometimes, we have headaches and we need sugar in our heads," said Yarmisha Cofield, a Mildred Avenue seventh-grader who ate the $1.29 tube of sour candy and only picked at her school lunch of fried chicken.
In terms of policy, the article makes a fairly toothless "compromise" bill under consideration today in the Massachusetts Senate look good by comparison to the stronger bill under consideration in the House. Most nutritionists would consider the sports drinks that are permitted under the Senate bill to be little better than the caloric sodas the bill prohibits.


Tricia said...

Parke, there was a story on NPR near the end of last year, about the effect of "junk food bans" in some California schools. Produced by youth radio, it was a young girl telling how a black-market trade in candy and sodas is now flourishing at the school - often under the watching eyes of teachers. Of course, your point about reducing the hypocrisy of teaching nutrition while selling empty calories is worthwhile.

I thought of this story when you brought up the "school wellness policies". I have a friend in Massachusetts who is very health-conscious, very aware of nutrition, etc. But she's also heavily involved in her kids' schools, and worries that some overzealous advocates are going to take things too far. For example, one extreme proposal (that has been discussed for her son's school) would ban all outside food - so no treats at classroom parties, for example. Not even healthy treats! Some people would say that's good, kids should be learning not having parties - but they also need some time to celebrate as a community. And celebrations in our culture so often involve food.

Sorry, I'm straying from the point of today's posting - but I hope advocates will be able to allow some balance in school kids lives. Not soda on their lunch trays, by any means, but maybe some brownies and oranges at their Valentine's party!

Tricia said...

To follow up on my NPR reference, here's a link to the story (sorry for not including it before!):