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Parents: Do You Know What Your Kids Are Eating At School? 23 States Get Failing Grades

Posted Dec 18 2008 8:12pm

Moms and Dads, do you know what your children are eating when they go to school?

Well, if you live in one of 23 states -- Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin or Wyoming -- you better listen up.

Chances are pretty good that when your children are off learning at school, they're spending your hard-eanred lunch money to down junk food galore -- sugar sodas and sports drinks (often very big ones), as well as other sugary, fatty, salty snacks.

Indeed, according to the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest -- which evaluated school policies regarding foods and beverages sold in campus vending machines, school stores and school fundraisers -- kids in those 23 states just cited eat horribly, leading the CSPI to give them a big fat F in its just-released "School Foods Report Card."

Another 15 states received Cs or Ds from CSPI. The only state to get anywhere near an awesome grade was Kentucky, which scored an A-minus, because school vending machines are filled with bottled water and dried fruit instead of soda and snack cakes. (Now that's pretty cool!) Meanwhile, only 5 states (Nevada, Arkansas, New Mexico, Alabama, and California) earned B+s, . and 7 states received Bs or B-s.

Frankly, I'm really saddened, disappointed and annoyed by this news about the proliferation of nutrition-lacking foods in our nation's foods.

Aren't school administrators, teachers, etc. paying attention? Can't they see how kids are sprouting out, not up right before their very eyes? Don't they read article after article or hear TV news story after news story about how our kids are getting diabetes at a younger and younger age?

The CSPI's nutrition director Margo G. Wootan concluded: "Although some local school districts have school foods policies that are far better than the state standards, far too many states allow way too much junk food in schools.

"With junk food tempting kids at nearly every other public place in America, schools should be one place where parents don't have to worry about what their kids are eating. States should continue to enact stronger nutrition policies, but since the school lunch program is, after all, a federal program, Congress should take action to ensure that all school foods are healthy."

Yes, what gives, America? Congressmen and Congresswomen, why aren't you paying attention? Why not offer our kids better food in the schools?

The CSPI also found that:

•  19 states limit added sugars and 12 limit sales of sports drinks (well, at least that's some progress)

•  10 states have nutrition standards that apply to whole campuses, entire school days and all grade levels (why only 10 states?);

•  9 states limit saturated-fat content of snacks, but only 7 limit trans fat, which CSPI nutritionists condemn as  "even worse for children's hearts and health" (why are fats being ignored -- trans fats are horrific!);"

•  5 states set limits on sodium (yikes, talk about neglecting another important item -- yeah, I'm not just into cutting back on sugar; salt intake's important to watch, too)
Of course, I'm always on the alert for excessive sugar content, and it's heartening to know that the CSPI has more optimism about soda being limited in the future. (The organization reports about an agreement I jubilantly discussed initially here and then raised questions about here and here ):

"Sugary soda--the largest single source of teens' calories--is likely to be less common in schools in coming years, thanks in part to avoluntary agreementthe soda industry made with former President Clinton, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and the American Heart Association. That announcement, which headed off a lawsuit planned by CSPI and various lawyers, is voluntary and might be hard to enforce, and CSPI says it should not forestall local, state, or federal action to ensure that soda and other sugary drinks, including Gatorade-style `sports' drinks, are removed from schools."

As you've read elsewhere, I'm not terribly fond of offering juice drinks, but, hey they are a lot better than soda. In fact the "CSPI recommends that the only beverages sold in schools be waters, seltzer, low-fat or fat-free milk, and unsweetened juice drinks with at least 50 percent fruit juice, and that beverage portion sizes (other than for water) be limited to 12 ounces."

"For snacks, CSPI offers some other good recommends -- it suggests "reasonable limits for saturated and trans fat, sodium, and added sugars. School food policies should apply to all grade levels, the whole school day, and everywhere on campus, according to the group," CSPI announced.

For more information:

Thanks to my research assistant Jennifer Moore

Weird. Now that I'm learning about the shabby shape of foods served in the schools I realize that my little battle with a few pounds here and there (that I just wrote about) seems rather trite.

Actually, I'm pretty angry. We must take action to change school lunches.

So rather than be pissed off -- that isn't productive -- join me to take action and now!

Start off by making a donation to the Two Angry Moms, who are now producing a much-needed documentary about the abysmal state of school lunches across the nation.

You also could begin by watching you for # 1 -- yourself. So, if you need help kicking sweets, join my free, online KickSugar support group.

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