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Making healthy foods happen

George Lebard
My Turn

Not too long ago there was a national survey done in relationship to the obesity epidemic and school lunches/snacks. What they discovered was a tremendous pressure on schools and communities to sponsor fundraisers for funding program cuts (P.E., music and the arts), as well as building school extensions

With budget cuts across the country, the burden has fallen on parents and children to raise the money for these necessary programs. The most popular way is selling foods at school functions and lunch time, which are high in fats and sugars and contribute to the obesity epidemic.

Another source of funding is to allow competing soft drink vendors to install their vending machines within the schools. Companies have been known to pay big bucks for this privilege. Unfortunately it becomes a trade off, big bucks for much needed school revenue over the health of our children.

We rationalize it by saying that everyone should have the freedom of choice and if you raise your kid right they are not going to abuse their right to choose. But kids are kids and if the machines are there the message is that it must be all right. The same goes for selling soft drinks, cookies and sweets at special events.-

Don’t get me wrong, I like snacks and sweets as much as the next middle-aged, slightly overweight guy. But if given the choice I will choose healthy foods over those high in fats and sugar.-

We’re back to choices and what if we did have the choice and, even better, gave our children the choice?-If we’re going for freedom of choice let’s go all the way. What if we took what the Boy Scouts are doing as an example and focused on selling healthy snacks? Wow, what a concept!- Instead of Cokes, cakes, pastries and sweets, we could sell healthy foods like 100 percent fruit juices, fruit smoothies, granola bars, whole grained baked goods made with unsaturated oils, and whole fruit like apples, oranges, bananas, throw in a few baby carrots and bagels with peanut butter and you have a healthy choice.-

Add a little healthy role modeling and you have created a choice of contributing to a healthy life style or obesity. Either choice has the chance of influencing eating habits that can last a lifetime. It has been done and it works. Schools and communities across the nation are taking charge and selling healthy snacks and food to raise money for school programs.

The statistics are in and they show that people are willing to pay a little more when they know it is good for them. Some schools have even increased their revenue and no one has lost funding from switching or offering healthy alternatives.-There is even a movement to replace soft drink vending machine with carbonated 100 percent fruit juice. –

Every day we here at Project MANA read about the progress schools and communities are making to offer healthy choices to their children. It is these community action movements that will provide the ground work and momentum we need to introduce change into our communities and schools.-

Check out “Making It Happen! School Nutrition Success Stories” at http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/Resources/makingithappen.html .

George Lebard is the

executive director of Project MANA.


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