“Where would we be without the efforts over the last few years to encourage healthier habits in our children?” said Terry Lee Young, San Antonio inventor and advocate for healthier school communities.
Though new policies will not take effect until at least 2015, efforts by the USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama have started America in the right direction for teaching our youngest generations about the importance of being healthy and instilling better habits.
New USDA regulations will require schools to offer healthier foods in the lunch line, capping calorie, fat, sugar, and sodium levels. The Associate Press reported on the matter, ironically unveiling that “The healthier food rules have come under fire from conservatives who think the government shouldn’t dictate what kids eat – and from some students who don’t like the healthier foods.”
To Terry Young though, they are allowing one issue to remain unaddressed: “Rules for [school fundraisers], like bake sales and marketing for those events, would be left up to schools or states. Off-campus fundraisers, like an event at a local fast-food outlet that benefits a school, still would be permitted,” reported the AP.
Sports teams and school clubs often use fundraisers to generate the funds needed for a plethora of necessities, from new uniforms to travel costs, and much more. But what is being done outside of the schools’ boundaries is still being left untouched.
The reality is that government initiatives and policies can extend only so far. At the end of the day, it is still up to the leaders of their communities and families to discourage unhealthy norms.
David Quick of The Post and Courier recently wrote about an issue he found in his community in Charleston, South Carolina. “It was a surprise to me when I saw, via a Facebook post by [a parent], a note announcing that [a local elementary school] was holding a Krispy Kreme doughnut coupon sale with the incentives for the top-selling classes being a pizza party and an ice cream party.”
Quick also quoted the concerned parent, who said “There are no words to describe how frustrating it is to get a letter like this from your child’s school. It’s not just his school … I’m sure parents get these kinds of letters all of the time.” Indeed, she would have a supporter of her notion in Terry Lee Young. San Antonio, his hometown faces the same issues, as does every city across America.
“When people think of school fundraisers, I bet that the large majority think of some unhealthy product – baked goods, for instance. But that’s not what our children need,” said Terry Young. In an effort to make real change, the San Antonio inventor developed ICE Athletic Fundraiser Program, a healthy, pain-relieving alternative to prescription drugs and medications that are sold exclusively via fundraisers to support local athletic teams and organizations. The endeavor allows schools to create their own web pages where a team’s community can purchase the merchandise and donate to the cause.
Of all that has been done to combat child obesity and promote healthy lifestyles to our children, perhaps the latest effort from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative is the biggest.
“When parents are working hard at home, they need to rest assured that those efforts aren’t being undone when kids are out of their control at school,” said Sam Kass, the White House’s Senior Nutrition Policy Adviser. While placing restrictions on unhealthy food is big, eliminating the constant promotion of unhealthy goods is bigger.
As the AP wrote, “Moving beyond the lunch line, new rules being [proposed] by the White House and the Agriculture Department would limit marketing of unhealthy foods in schools. They would phase out the advertising of sugary drinks and junk foods around campuses during the school day and ensure that other promotions in schools were in line with health standards that already apply to school foods.”
Companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi “donate” an enormous to schools across the United States. These donations are in the form of vending machines – with their products in them, of course – and scoreboards with their logos plastered on them for every young, impressionable child to see every single day.
The AP reported that “90 percent of such marketing in schools is related to beverages, and many soda companies already have started to transition their sales and advertising in schools from sugary sodas and sports drinks to their healthier products.”
Under the new provisions, Coca-Cola could advertise Diet Coke or Dasani water, on cups, posters, menu boards, and of course, vending machines and scoreboards too. While the caveat might get a rise out of the cynic, this is at least a big step in the right direction.
Terry Lee Young, San Antonio and other American communities need to complete what Michelle Obama and the USDA are starting – take the initiative to make sure that fundraisers also shatter the old norms of promoting unhealthy lifestyles.