What do you think?
Brett Berk: The New York City Board of Education has implemented a new policy banning bake sales in all of their schools. Well, mostly. Some groups -- like those connected to parent associations -- will be given a sweet pass. And if you want to peddle your toxic fat- and sugar-laden goods after 6 PM, once the building is chained and shuttered and feels like the stage set for some creepy horror movie, have at it. But otherwise, keep your brownies to yourself.
As an educator and child advocate, I totally understand the motivation behind a move like this. Allowing these kinds of things to be sold on school property and during school hours gives some illusion that they're officially sanctioned and supported, which isn't the best health-related message. And with four in ten NYC Public School students hitting the obese mark, implementing a policy like this might feel like doing something instead of doing nothing.
But moves like this, while symbolic, tend to lack impact, unless they're accompanied by deeper thoughts and actions. Like the recent flurry of interest in "family dinner time," or the past interest in Mozart for Babies, these kinds of simple, one-shot actions are not long-term cures, any more than washing down three Advil with a glass of Alka-Seltzer is a long-term cure for alcoholism. What we need in this country is not only efforts at regulation -- the decrees of which are simple and splashy and somehow comforting -- but also a coordinated and dedicated national health education curriculum for kids and parents, one that transcends the kind of simplistic fat:bad/broccoli:good lessons that we're currently teaching. (We could also use better access to affordable healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods, where fresh fruits and vegetables are often difficult to come by. Organic subsidies, anyone?)
These things are much harder to put into place, mainly because we have no coordinated and dedicated national health care policy, which is where one would traditionally imagine something like this coming from. Perhaps that will change at some point soon. Until then, the school soccer team (a healthy form of physical exertion we should be supporting) will have to find some other way to get the money to buy their uniforms. Hummus and carrot sale, anyone?
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed., has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting."|