Pharos-Tribune

October 31, 2012

OUR VIEW: Schools promoting healthy choices


— When the U.S. Department of Agriculture handed down stricter standards for school lunches, many might have feared that kids would resist the change, that they might turn their noses up at the healthier food choices and instead come to school with sugary treats and potato chips.

Sadly, there has been some of that.

In a story this week, the food director at one county school corporation acknowledged that she had seen fewer kids standing in the lunch line.

Our hope is that trend will begin to change with the passage of time. As word spreads that these healthier choices actually taste pretty good, we hope more youngsters will give them a try.

Clearly, the United States has a weight problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese.

The latest statistics indicate that almost two-thirds of Hoosier adults age 18 and over were overweight, with a body mass index of 25 or greater. Nearly 30 percent were obese.

The problem starts at a young age. Nearly 16 percent of Indiana’s adolescents in grades 9 through 12 were overweight and 12.8 percent were obese. The numbers were even higher for the state’s pre-schoolers ages 2 to 5.

Weight-related health issues include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than the costs for individuals of normal weight.

Most of us need to take a closer look at our diets. We need to develop some healthier habits. We need fewer soft drinks or more juice or milk or even water. We need less grease and more greens.

And what better place to form those habits than in our public schools?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture should be applauded for the steps it has taken to make school lunches healthier, and it’s incumbent upon parents to back up the message nutritionists are trying to send.

Resist the temptation to fill that bag with junk food and encourage your children instead to pick up some of those fruits and vegetables they’ll find in the school lunch line.

Your kids might complain at first, but they’ll thank you in the long run.