Parents know the drill all too well. Kids ask for a couple of dollars extra for school lunch money to allow them to buy cookies and chips and snacks not on the standard menu. The parent who says no is aware that most of the other kids are buying the snacks, and that things are going to be a little chilly at home if a child is forced to go snackless.
But new federal standards are coming in next year, standards that will require snacks to be healthier and thus, sadly, less appealing to youngsters. That means lower revenues for the Wake County school system, for example, because about $10 million of the child nutrition budget comes from snack sales. The budget total is $50 million.
Despite the strain on the budget, its hard to find a parent who says, Aw, lets go ahead and load em up on the cookies and run in some ice cream and some of those super caffeine sodas as well. Childhood obesity is a major health problem in this country, and this attempt on the part of the federal government to add some needed regulation in the area of school lunches is a strike against health problems. One parent told The N&O that if lunch prices have to be raised at elementary through high schools to make up lost revenue, so be it. The prices in Wake currently are $2 per meal at elementary schools and $2.25 at middle and high schools.
And while nutrition experts say no one can legislate healthy eating, they also say that changing snacks is something kids will actually do and that some will modify their habits. It may be a small step, but its something. (Nutritionists also say theres no substitute for parental oversight.)
Habits of unhealthy eating follow many people all their lives and shorten those lives. A few cents more to compensate schools for the lost revenue from high-calorie, unhealthy snacks is a pittance to pay for better eating habits for kids.