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Anti-Obesity Efforts: Not in My Schoolyard say Educators

Posted on May 24, 2010

It sounded like a win-win. Kids can fight the obesity battle with the help of schools not offering them sugar –ladened drinks. Who could argue with that? Certainly not First Lady Michelle Obama, who has made childhood obesity her targeted campaign.

Who could object?

How about the dairy and beverage industry for one? Florida educators came up with a plan to remove sodas and chocolate milk and Gatorade from Florida public schools. Instead schools would offer water, pure juice and white low-fat milk.

But educators backed off of the plan on Tuesday when the Florida Board of Education tabled the proposal. Board member John Padget accused the board of caving in to industry interests. Representatives of the soft-drink industry and dairy addressed the board at its Tuesday meeting and argued there was no reason to impose the policy pointing to improvements underway to the federal child-nutrition guidelines.

“The vested interests all showed up,” said Padget, a former schools superintendent in Monroe County. “I congratulate the [state Department of Education] for coming up with a very far-reaching, groundbreaking proposal. I’;m disappointed we couldn’;t get more support at this juncture,” reports the Orlando Sentinel.
Kids have an alarming rate of obesity in the U.S. and processed foods and sugary drinks are part of the problem. Besides obesity, there’s been a rapid increase in Type2 diabetes in both children and adults. Believe it or not, school districts took exception with Padget’s plan because they feared losing chocolate milk. Some figure chocolate or vanilla milk at least gets kids drinking milk.

The woman who oversees Osceola County’s food service says losing flavored milk would be “devastating,” which is a really good word for the long-term health consequences of obesity and Type-2 diabetes. It’s done elsewhere with success.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Head Start in Connecticut serves white milk, non-flavored, to kids who happily drink it. And the Boulder Valley, Colorado school district has given chocolate, vanilla and strawberry milk the boot. I love what she says in the article, which perfectly points out the role of parents. “Everybody says it’;s going to be a big deal,” she said. “But if the kids wanted to drink scotch, would we let them? When do the kids get to decide?”

Thank you!

And thank you Mr. Padget! Are you listening Florida?