Tuesday, May 31, 2005

You just can't win

System Lets Parents Spy on Kids' Lunches
As Garin Hughes picks through his school-lunch burrito and unidentifiable apple-pear dessert, he has a secret. Hidden underneath the eighth-grader's right leg is a chocolate cookie in shrink-wrapped plastic. That's for dessert. In the past, his parents had no clue when he bought a treat at school. Now, thanks to a new school-lunch monitoring system, they can check over the Internet and learn about that secret cookie.

Health officials hope it will increase parents' involvement in what their kids eat at school. It's a concern because federal health data shows that up to 30 percent of U.S. children are either overweight or obese.
I think it's fine that parents are; it's part of their responsibility. But I shake my head how we blame unhealthy school lunches, blame this, blame that, blame everything but the last several decades of medical and social policies' Kerry-esque flip-flopping.

When my dad grew up in the 1920s and 1930s, his mother and aunt wanted him to study instead of playing baseball. So kids over the last several decades started studying more and playing less. Is anyone surprised that their reduced physical exertion, with or without the prevalence of junk foods, led to overweight children? I personally see junk food and fast food as signs of prosperity. Children can afford to buy pretty expensive school lunches, and snacks from vending machines, day in and day out. When the Great Depression hit, my dad was fortunate to have any lunch at all. Literally so, because his mother and aunt sometimes couldn't afford to put food on the table. Children today go to fast food restaurants or 7-11 after school. My father worked whatever after-school jobs he could, so that his family had money.

The article notes a parent who talked her daughter into buying water, not juice. But for years, children were encouraged to drink milk or juice instead of soda pop. I clearly remember those commercials during Saturday morning cartoons. Now juice has been declared bad for kids: too much sugar, too many calories. Milk has already been declared bad because of its fat content -- a couple of decades ago or so?

What I find especially inane is the parent worrying about her daugher's lunchtime supplement of juice, because lunch already comes with a four-ounce bottle. Maybe it's because I'm a big guy and drink three quarts of water per day, but four ounces isn't much more than a swallow. The additional 12-ounce can sounds about right when consuming a meal.

My late father used to sigh about vitamin D. We were told that our bodies must be out in the sun to produce vitamin D, then years later we were told to avoid sunning. Now we're told some exposure to sunlight is necessary, but doctors aren't sure how much. It turns out that vitamin D can help prevent prostate cancer and other forms, with the benefits exceeding the risks of skin cancer.

You just can't win.

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