Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fat Chance

Whether it's the non-scandal that is the Libyan consulate story, the ugly scandal that's the misogynistic Richard Mourdock story, or the potentially very real scandal of Mitt Romney committing perjury at an ethical level just one step above 'Code Blue (Dress)', the fact is, we're sick of all the petty bickering, fighting, and scandal - real or imagined - from the campaigns this year. Don't even get us started on the toupee dragging a man underneath it scandal that is Donald Trump.

During the last two weeks of what may be the most brutal election in history, what we'd really love to see and hear is for Americans to be talking about the real core issues of government we need to discuss, while other Americans listened, understood, then vigorously debated those issues in a civil manner.

Fat chance that would happen in most of America today. In fact, there are very few topics where Americans seem to be able to find common ground today - except maybe the public school lunch table.

From those deep blue-state "liberals" in California, to the deep red-state "conservatives" in Texas, and everywhere else in the nation, American school kids and the adults that interact with them have begun to notice a significant change in what's getting dished up in the school cafeteria.

The USDA - the Ag Department, for those of us from the Midwest - recently revised the guidelines used for the school lunch program for the first time since the Clinton administration. Some changes had been suggested as far back as 2004, but enforcement was effectively left up to schools, who effectively ignored the Bush-era standards.

So when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 of was passed, and signed into law by President Obama, there were both literal and proverbial carrots in the new regulations, as well as "sticks" in terms of enforcement.

The list of changes required by the USDA is long - and many kids aren't very happy with them. More fruits and vegetables. Smaller, more age-appropriate serving sizes of protein. And ketchup is no longer considered a vegetable.

The results, however, for states and school boards that had already started down similar pathways are already lifting weight off the shoulders of both students and adults alike. In cities and states that began tackling the issue shortly before the new standards took effect, childhood obesity rates appear to be holding steady, or even declining, after thirty years of increases.

The proverbial carrots we mentioned were even doled out in our hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska this year when seven schools there reached "gold status" in the Healthier Schools Challenge - which earned each school's nutrition program $1500.

We know - this battle to keep kids healthy isn't over by a long shot. Keeping schools, kids, and parents on the right path will be like getting children to eat their lima beans - literally.

In the end though, we think America as a nation, and our American kids individually, will thank us all for helping them to eat healthier, so they can live better and longer - even if they're not exactly happy about it now.

This fight against childhood obesity is one fight where hopefully all Americans can be on the same side.

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