As a Registered Dietitian and mother of two, I am on the front-lines everyday witnessing the dramatic influence diet has on children. As I am certain you are aware, we are currently in the midst of a national crisis of overfed, yet undernourished people, where more than two-thirds of the U.S. adult population is overweight or obese, and 17% of our children are as well. Diabetes incidence is escalating in children as well as behavioral issues and other health concerns. The most ironic part is the fact that most-if not all-of this can be prevented through nutrition.
After spending some time working in the kitchens of some Los Angeles-based school districts, and seeing what the USDA has to offer, I promised to always send my kids to school with a homemade lunch once I had kids. Although I have stuck to this promise wholeheartedly, it pains me to have this basic solution stabbed in my back. My kids still come home having eaten high sugar, high fat, and highly processed "treats" on a near-daily basis, given to them for good behavior, birthday parties, holidays, etc. The whole concept of a "treat" has been made obsolete, as a treat is not something one gets on a very regular basis. It is this very principle that greatly contributes to the current health crisis we are experiencing. I believe what the family teaches at home is critical for the child's health and habit education. However, when those messages are conflicted by the schools where their education and time is substantial, it sends mixed signals and raises the difficulty of understanding what healthy behaviors truly look like.
To participate in the solution, I strongly implore that the schools:
· Provide nutrition education as frequently as possible from qualified professionals;
· Eliminate the use of food/candy/etc. as reward for good behavior;
· Limit "treats" given for holidays and birthday parties…at least require a healthy option;
· Set regulations on what may or may not be brought into the classroom;
· Require parental permission to distribute candy and any other food-like items (allergies alone are a critical reason to prevent a school faculty or staff from making food decisions for a student)
Thank you for your consideration.