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Ban the Bake Sale!

bake sales, kids health

No more bake sales in Massachusetts -- not a bad idea.

Starting in August, school PTAs in Massachusetts will no longer be allowed to hold bake sales. The state’s kids will no longer be able to buy snacks in the hallways and cafeterias or from vending machines and in-school stores. Holiday parties will feature crafts, no cupcakes. No more candy rewards for turning in homework.

Yesterday, Strollerderby’s Danielle Smith, like some parents in the state, argued against the ban on bake sales, saying bans on sweets only make kids want them more. And that forbidding bakes sales means PTAs will have a harder time raising funds.

Me? I’m all for the ban and for good, scientific reason. Turns out, keeping crap food out of school actually has an impact on kids’ health AND the almighty obesity problem.

The New York Times Well blog reported yesterday that in the five years that California has cracked down on junk available at school and in the cafeterias, teens in the state eat fewer calories compared to their peers around the U.S. A new report found that, on average, California teens eat 160 fewer calories per day — the equivalent of a bag of chips — than students in other states.

And the kicker? From the Well blog:

That difference came largely from reduced calorie consumption at school, and there was no evidence that students were compensating for their limited access to junk food at school by eating more at home.

And this:

California students had the lowest daily intake of calories, fat and, especially, added sugars. And it seemed clear that their eating behaviors at school played a large role. California students got a lower proportion of their daily calories from school foods than students in other states: about 21.5 percent, compared with 28.4 percent among students elsewhere.

The reductions in fat, sugar and calorie consumption among Hispanic students “are particularly encouraging given the high prevalence of youth obesity among Hispanic individuals in California and the United States over all,” the authors wrote. “It is also encouraging in light of research that documented the high presence of convenience stores, mobile food vendors and other food outlets surrounding schools in Hispanic communities.”

It’s not like the state’s teens weren’t eating any junk food, they were just eating less of it. So the whole idea that banning junk food from school and bake sales (which, let’s face it, frequently sell the sweets right back to the school’s very families) is going to create a statewide binging epidemic is just not true. We honestly don’t have to feel sad for kids who don’t have ready access to hot Cheeto’s and bags of Oreos.

The bottom line is: schools can play a role in raising healthy kids. So let’s let them.

Another big study found that it’s not a lack of willpower that is at the root of our obesity epidemic (so please, hold your comments about parents needing to say “no” and people needing just get off the couch). Rather, our environment plays a much bigger role.

So while we’re banning bake sales, let’s also follow San Francisco’s lead and ban soda vending machines. Because it turns out that’s working, too.

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