White House challenges obesity with salad bars in schools
Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move!" mission aims to combat childhood obesity but faces hurdles from health inspectors and USDA rules.
Tue, Nov 23, 2010 at 05:29 PM
Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past three decades, and the White House is determined to do something about it. Recently announced, the First Lady Michelle Obama and “Let’s Move!” aim to put as many as 6,000 salads in public schools nationwide in the next three years. But as Grist.com reports, the move to bring vegetables to children is meeting some sizable snags.
One third of all children born after 2000 will suffer from diabetes at some point in their life. As Michelle Obama told reporters, “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake." Part of the First Lady’s initiative is to make fruit and vegetable consumption a priority for children whose diets are often loaded with sugar and saturated fats.
Obama is joined in this endeavor by the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, United Fresh Produce Association Foundation and Food, Family, Farming (F3) Foundation, and Whole Foods. In fact, Whole Foods recently raised $1.4 million from their customers to create a grant program to being more vegetables into schools.
But several obstacles remain in the way of salad bars making an appearance in elementary schools. As Grist reports, some schools are blocking the salad bars for food safety reasons. Fears are that elementary school age children will be too short make the sneeze guard an effective germ-prevention tool. The Center for Disease Control would also be required to visit the salad bars, though it is not yet determined what sort of federal rules might apply.
Further, the logistics of logging the fruits and vegetables into the USDA’s system appears too complicated for some schools to implement. As Grist describes the issue, students must take a minimum amount from the bar, which is then judged as sufficient by cashiers stationed just after the salad bars. The USDA must approve the menus of the 31 million school-age children whose meals are federally subsidized.
Ann Cooper is director of nutrition services at the Boulder Valley School District and founder of the F3 Foundation and TheLunchBox.org. As Cooper told Grist, many of these concerns over health issues are unwarranted. According to Cooper, "As far as I’ve found out, there are no documented disease outbreaks from school salad bars. By and large, this is not a high risk area."
Nonetheless, several schools have already refused to allow salad bars. But along with the White House, supporters are continuing to press the issue. Cooper is working with Whole Foods on the Great American Salad Bar Project to bring salads into schools. Through this organization, people can donate funds to promote salad bars, while schools can apply for grants to install them. Click here to learn how you can support this endeavor.
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