America is getting fat. Even in Kansas, studies are showing us to be fatter than ever. This is why both the federal and state governments are working on wellness policies to give kids healthier options in schools. The Lawrence school board tentatively approved a wellness policy April 11 to adhere to the new mandates. However, it is a policy that encroaches on students' freedoms.
The new guidelines include turning off the vending machines during lunch, not allowing parents to bring treats on their children's birthdays and making fundraising less than 50 percent "food-related." However, the school board did not take into consideration what these options provide for students.
It is a very good point that eating healthy foods can make kids more attentive in school. Providing healthier options is a good way to encourage kids to eat healthier food. However, the focus should be on what the school serves. A majority of these items are carb-loaded with white breads and starches. Replacing these with whole grains and less-refined sugars would significantly help students make healthy choices. The juice served has just as much sugar as soda. Offering lower sugar juices would be a healthier option for students. Making a few substitutions can help students become healthier.
However, taking away the vending machines will not ease the problem of childhood obesity. The machines are already not available at the elementary school level and are turned off throughout the day at the junior highs. Students who already are old enough to vote and go to war should be able to choose if they want a Snickers bar or a salad for lunch. By the high school level, students have already established their eating patterns, and they are not going to change whether or not the vending machines are padlocked at lunch.
High school students have the choice to go out to lunch and spend their money wherever they choose. It would make sense to have a variety of options available for students at school so they don't have to rush to the nearest gas station (driving like maniacs) to get a quick chocolate fix. Then the money could be spent helping students rather than helping the local gas station.
Taking away the sales of pop and candy at lunch would eliminate a major source of fundraising within the schools. Student councils use the money to improve the school as well as to pay for school functions. School stores such as the Lion's Den at LHS, run by DECA, teaches students about marketing, sales and business. LHS' DECA makes an average of $1,200 in a given week. This money is used towards stocking the store and paying for state and national competitions.
As for the fundraising, most school fundraisers are "food-related" because it is cheap, easy and, hey, everyone eats. Cheer buys their uniforms by selling candy. Soccer sells cookie dough. Just about every club uses an occasional bake sale to work towards a goal. Taking away food would make participating in school events even more expensive. It does not make sense for the school board to take away both the funds AND the fundraising of the programs.
Keeping kids healthy is vital to keeping kids interested in school. However there are just times that students need the extra incentive or chocolate to stay awake in class. Conditioning kids to healthy eating works at home as well as in the early grades. However, it is pointless at the high school level where students are independent enough to bring candy, drive to the closest store or choose what they want to eat. Also, taking away fundraising would only make the out-of-pocket costs higher for students to participate. The philosophy is admirable. The policy is not.
- Laura Parkinson is a senior at Lawrence High School and a member of the Journal-World's teen board.