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Schools Offer Kids More Junk Food Than Exercise

School LunchHey, Moms! Here’s a new research study you’ll love. It’s looking at the obesity epidemic in American kids, and for once pointing the finger somewhere other than straight at you.

Schools are in the hot seat this time. A new report from Bridging The Gap indicates that elementary school students can buy soda, candy and other junk foods in their schools, but they often don’t get opportunities to exercise.

Shouldn’t our schools be making it harder for kids to access edible crap, and easier for them to move their bodies?

Like research tends to be, this report is long on details. Here are a few highlights:

  • 62 percent of kids can buy commercially processed sugary drinks and snacks at school.
  • About one third do not have at least 20 minutes of recess daily.
  • Only 34% go to schools that evaluate students’ physical fitness annually.
  • About 70% of students go to schools with no nutritional guidelines about the quality of food served to children.

Wow. We all know school lunches are a problem, but I hadn’t realized what a far-reaching issue this was or how bad it was. No nutritional guidelines? Less than 20 minutes of recess? Not OK, people.

I know educators are overworked and underpaid, but these are basic health concerns. Young children need access to healthy foods and time to move their little bodies around.

Most schools do require PE, but not enough of it. And they’re chipping away at recess to cram in more test prep time, until kids are parked at their desks nearly all day.

The nutrition piece is particularly alarming because our government uses free and reduced-cost school lunch programs as a mechanism to subsidize food for low-income American kids. So while I have the luxury of packing a healthy lunch for my kid if I don’t like the pizza and soda her school is offering, a lot of parents can’t do that. They’re depending on the free school lunches to feed their kids as part of how they’re making ends meet.

Get it together, schools! We really do need a revolution in the lunchroom. One that ends with a lot of soda going down the drain and some fresh vegetables being put on these kids’ plates.

Photo: Ben & Sam

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