CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

December 11, 2012

EDITORIAL: Take away the junk food


The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — The continuing debate over what defines a healthy meal in public school is reaching new levels of absurdity.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is blamed for leaving many students craving more to eat in the last schools years because of restrictions on the amount of meats and grains that can be offered to individuals in the cafeteria line. Bowing to criticism, the USDA is backing off a bit and allowing school districts to add some options that essentially increase the meats and grains available. And students can also have plenty of fries and mashed potatoes.

At the heart of the controversy is growing concern about the expanding waistlines of students. Yet, parents know that for years students have been able to purchase calorie-rich soft drinks and candy.

Older Americans — not seniors — may remember that school cafeterias were once rich with balanced offerings of vegetables and meats. Soft drink machines were nowhere close to the schools and water and milk were available for drinks.

The truth about school lunches is that students need balanced meals, not soft drinks and candy. And they need regular exercise. The rest of the health issue should be left to families. If a child becomes overweight because of a sedentary lifestyle at home, that’s a parental issue, not a government nutritional matter.

Serving students fresh meats and vegetables is sensible. Eliminating junk food from schools is sensible, too. The hope for better health among students could receive a boost if the students were actually involved in learning and preparing food.

When the government steps in and declares that tomato paste on a pizza counts as a vegetable, something’s wrong. Where’s the logic? Offer students slices of fresh tomato adorned with cottage cheese or blue cheese and olive oil dressing. But paste?

Local school districts are well equipped to determine what is nutritional for students. Just take away the junk at school. The double standard is glaring.