This week’s news that inner-city school districts in the Capital Region have more overweight or obese students than their wealthier suburban counterparts was hardly earth-shattering. Still, the new state Health Department statistics were welcome, even as they offer yet another way to stigmatize poor districts.
Of course kids from homes that can’t afford quality food, which is more expensive than junk food, are likely to be heavier. A diet of hot dogs, chips and other fast food fare is always going to be more fattening than one of lean meats or fish and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Kids are getting better-quality food in their school lunches (and breakfasts) these days, thanks to new rules pushed by First Lady Michele Obama; and those in inner-city schools are more likely to eat such meals, as opposed to suburban schools like Niskayuna, Voorheesville and Bethelehem, where students threw so much of the new healthy fare in the trash that officials in those districts withdrew from the program.
Poorer districts can’t afford to do that — their kids would go hungry — but they need to do more than just throw the healthier fare at them and hope they’ll eat it.
The kids, and their parents, need to be told the truth about junk food (as opposed to what they see and hear in ads): It isn’t worth the savings if it makes you fat, gives you diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.
When that message (along with the equally vital one about exercise) gets across, and when the government makes it harder for food stamp recipients to buy nutritionally unsound food, then obesity rates should come down.