According to Yahoo! Health, the rate of obesity in the United States has more than doubled for preschoolers and adolescents in the past 30 years, and it has more than tripled for children ages 6 to 11.
Many statistics surrounding childhood obesity have driven the federal government to implement The Federal Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004. This act requires schools nationwide to adhere to a wellness policy which includes stricter nutritional and physical activity guidelines.
The nutritional standards outlined in the policy aim to promote more health-conscious children and adolescents in hopes to reduce childhood obesity in America.
The 2000 National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that 40 to 69 percent of children over the age of 6 spend less than the recommended minimum of one hour a day doing moderate intensity physical activity. To combat the lack of physical activity, the wellness policy requires that elementary students have 15 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise. Teachers and administrators are not permitted to use physical activity as a punishment nor can they limit or deprive students of their recess time. This policy would have affected me as an elementary school student as I remember numerous occasions where recess was taken away or limited as an individual or class punishment.
Schools also are encouraged to become a place of recreation where students, staff and community members may participate in physical activity before, during, and after school.
The funding needed for supervision at a school for before and after hour recreation is a flaw I foresee in the implementation of the above guidelines.
Nutritional guidelines described in the policy force schools to cut back on unhealthy food, drinks, and portion sizes. All pop machines will be no longer permitted. Water, juice, and
sports drinks are allowed, but must adhere to beverage nutritional standards. For example, sports drinks may not contain more than 30 grams of sugar per 16 ounces of fluid and only 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice is allowed.
At Soldotna High School alone, the pop machines generate $20,000 to $30,000 a school year. Without this considerable income, how can the school keep up with the funding needed for school activities?
All foods and beverages sold on school grounds through vending machines, concession stands, and any fund-raising efforts must meet nutrition standards based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I am assuming that concession stand food and beverages at high school events do not meet the nutritional criteria. These include such choices as hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, cookies, candy and pop.
Again, concession stands provide a substantial amount of funding; therefore, I do not think taking away concessions all together is a beneficial solution. I can not imagine the school generating the same amount of income serving vegetable juice and celery sticks as a healthful alternative.
As directly stated in the policy, “Schools will not use foods or beverages as rewards for academic performance or good behavior. Schools will not withhold food or beverages as a punishment.” Every month at Soldotna High School the Rotary holds a pizza luncheon for students who demonstrate notable improvement in academics or behavior. Though this reward system may not directly influence a student to do well in school it does give a sense of accomplishment. Another example of how food is used as an incentive at school is during the High School Qualifying Exams. A certain number of students must be present on these days in order for the school to be labeled proficient; as a result the administration at our school used a pizza party in order to reach the quota. This in my opinion worked well, but according to policy standards this would not be allowed next year.
The Federal Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 in the long run might be a beneficial way to prevent even more startling statistics from reaching our headlines, but the practicality of the policy is questionable in certain aspects of a school setting
Ashley Bell is a Senior at Soldotna High School.
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