Friday, October 31, 2008

Childhood Obesity: Who's to Blame?

Yesterday, I came across an article about the Neenah Joint School District in Wisconsin and its efforts to combat childhood obesity which has reached epidemic proportions in the last decade. An expansion of the district's wellness program, Neenah has issued a ban on sweets. Here is the article: (

Neenah School District Bans Cupcakes, Sweet Treats

Associated Press
NEENAH - Neenah students who want to bring an occasional treat for their classmates will be limited fruit, vegetables and other healthy snacks.

The Neenah School District tightened its wellness policy this year and banned cupcakes, candy and other sweet treats.

Parent Vicki Denzin is asking the Board of Education to ease those rules. Denzin says banning the items doesn't teach the children moderation or portion control.

Denzin asks how excited a 6- or 7-year-old would be to bring bananas or carrot sticks to share with their friends.

Tullar Elementary School Principal Diane Galow says it's not the sugary cupcake that's important, it's the ability of the students to share a treat on their birthday or special day.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

The alarming part of this story is that there are parents who oppose the ban- one that would move towards educating children about proper nutrition. As the article points out, one parent in particular (Vicki Denzin) points to the fact that this policy doesn't teach moderation or portion control. In this instance, consuming a "food" that will impair your health over time by eating it "in moderation", is innappropriate. It is more appropriate to teach children to eat the right amount of healthy foods, from the proper food groups, at the proper times. Neenah is attempting to accomplish a task that was once taught in the child's home--by their parents.

I reviewed Neenah's wellness policy and it appears that they are on the right track. Here is an excerpt of the Mission and Goals of the program:

Wellness -- In order to fully achieve the mission of the Neenah Joint School District, we recognize our responsibility to promote lifelong wellness behaviors that link proper nutrition and physical activity to students' overall health, growth, development, academic performance, and readiness to learn. This District-wide wellness policy encourages all members of the school community to create an environment that supports lifelong healthy eating habits and promotes opportunities for increased physical activity.

546.1 Wellness Goals

546.11 Establish an environment that empowers the school community to make good nutritional choices during the academic day and school-related functions outside of the instructional day.

546.12 Establish an environment that empowers the school community to increase physical activity during the academic day and supports the continuation of these activities outside of the instructional day.

546.13 Provide a high quality lunch program for students and staff.

546.131 Provide students with well-balanced nutritional choices of food and beverages;
546.132 Assist students in making healthy choices; and
546.133 Encourage and promote participation in the school lunch program.

546.14 Educate our school community, including students, parents and staff, on the benefits of good nutrition and physical activity.

The program further outlines nutrition standards, district food service, lunch and snack recommendations, school-based activities, physical activity and nutrition education, and policy regulation. As a parent, how could you object to this type of program? If executed properly, the children will lose the weight, miss fewer days from school due to preventable illness, improve grades and conduct, and become more physically active. Here is the link. Please read it and decide for yourself:

On October 28, 2008, The New York Times published an article entitled, "A Rise in Kidney Stones Is Seen in U.S. Children"written by Laurie Tarkan. Kidney stones? I wonder if there is link between children's diets and kidney stones? Here is how some of the experts respond:

"“What we’ve really seen is an increase in the salt load in children’s diet,” said Dr. Bruce L. Slaughenhoupt, co-director of pediatric urology and of the pediatric kidney stone clinic at the University of Wisconsin. He and other experts mentioned not just salty chips and French fries, but also processed foods like sandwich meats; canned soups; packaged meals; and even sports drinks like Gatorade, which are so popular among school children they are now sold in child-friendly juice boxes."

"Dr. Slaughenhoupt has seen more overweight children at his clinic. “We haven’t compared our data yet,” he said, “but my sense is that children with stones are bigger, and some of them are morbidly obese.”

Dr. Pope, in Nashville, agreed. His hospital lies in the so-called stone belt, a swath of Southern states with a higher incidence of kidney stones, and he said doctors there saw two to three new pediatric cases a week.

“There’s no question in my mind that it is largely dietary and directly related to the childhood obesity epidemic,” he said."

At the end of the day, we can protest, litigate, and criticize the food and medical industries and even the schools. But, in this country we have a choice. Children are the most easily influenced people on the planet if parents would judge take charge of their health. It starts at home and we must be found modeling the behavior: increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats; eliminate processed foods; increase water intake; increase physical activity; get proper rest. It really is that simple. Here is a link to help you assess your family's needs:

I am going to conclude with some "food for thought" about the food and beverage industry and its relationship with the health care industry. Have a look!

Dr. Alim Muhammad "The Atonement and Purification of a Nation"

Morgan Spurlock "Super Size Me"

Michael Moore "Sicko"

More next time...

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