Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New rules for food sold in schools

An article in yesterday's New York Times discussed new rules about the types of snacks that can be sold in schools. They have to be healthier. A key set of issues were raised:

(1) Would schools receive less revenue as the demand for less healthy snacks is assumed to be lower than the demand for healthy snacks?

(2) If schools have a choice oaf how to promote children's health, why not require a daily physical education class?
On the first, with the right marketing, there might even be more demand for healthy snacks than for less healthy snacks. Seems reasonable to assume a lower demand but this is not guaranteed and is an empirical question.
On the second point, the incentives just don't line up. Schools are asked to put things like "No Child Left Behind" and other standardized testing first. Changing the rules about what food can be sold may be much less effective than physical education. But physical education requires a teacher and takes time away from other activities. In short, the incentives to say you are doing something are pretty strong and this can be done much less expensively by changing the food rules and claiming progress than by really reforming the children's educational process and how health is related to that process.


  1. I understand we need to look at the economics of feeding our school children, but we need to take the big business out of the decisions to provide the children with healthier foods. My blood pressure became elevated when I read the NY Times article on new rules on snacks for sale at the public schools. Why aren't the schools getting 70 percent or more of the revenue from the vending machines and the city getting 30 percent. Something is wrong with this equation. The answer is to have more individuals like Patrick Sullivan who criticizes a department he works closely with, because he knows these policies are not going to benefit the children as they should. He also questions why aren't the children getting more gym classes. GYM and exercise have fallen to the bottom of the list in terms of classes offered regularly in the public schools in NYC. The NFL does more to promote exercise in our children with NFL Play 60 that encourages the children to get 60 minutes of exercise each day. The NFL Play 60 program does visit various schools around the country promoting exercise and health. The children in NYC and all cities would benefit from the lessons the NFL is teaching and incorporate this education and exercise into the daily curriculum.

  2. Hi, wonderful points presented. I do agree that excercise and running around are vital. Unfortunately, we have the same stagnant life-style here too, and child obesity is def. on the rise. I as a parent take my daughter out everyday, for at least two hours, to run around in a park near my house, i take a bike etc...I can do this since i don't work, however, i sometimes feel bored with having to watch her, since i remember the days of yesteryears, where we were left to roam on our own as kids. However, it does give them excercise, and also, trying to provide healthy meals overall. She also does witness me excercise on a daily basis, and quite frankly i was surprised the other day when she was doing push ups at the play ground. (she has seen me do them), so well, what do you know the kiddo can do a push up. I also try to involve a sport activity for her to do after school. Swimming, in spring summer, and theatre movement workshop for fall but, she also goes out and runs around. For winter i will have ot find some kind of movement group again, but, will take her out as much as possible to bike.
    Its not easy, but, excercise is the best way to maintain, overall health, is my experience.