New nutrition regulations limit food availability
In an effort to reduce childhood obesity and promote healthy decisions, the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services has implemented new nutrition standards for the 2012-2013 school year.
Among other limitations, the nutrition policy bans all drinks with sugar or artificial sweetening and limits each snack item to 200 calories or less. The policy will be an adjustment for students as well as kitchen faculty members.
“The guidelines are too strict; there needs to be wiggle room. I understand that they’re trying to make things healthy, but they have to realize that students have to eat,” Marie Burke, a cafeteria worker at Wayland High School, said.
Although Burke disagrees with the regulations, she sympathizes with the movement to become more health-conscious. The Center for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) reports that childhood obesity can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, various cancers and osteoarthritis, and healthy eating habits contribute greatly to the prevention of obesity.
But in past years, Massachusetts obesity rates have stayed below the national average. According to Boston.com, while the national obesity rate for children 10 to 17 years old was 16.4 percent in 2007, the Massachusetts obesity rate was 13.3 percent.
“A lot of the kids in this town do not have a problem with weight because they’re here until seven at night playing sports,” Burke said.
Football Coach Sam Breslin also strongly opposes the mandate. He feels that the new regulation is actually less healthy because it doesn’t provide adequate protein supplement for students. The CDC reports that girls from the ages of 14-18 need 46 grams of protein each day, while boys of the same age need 52. Breslin speculates that meals supplied by the school only contain around five grams each.
“Why not teach kids what to eat and why as opposed to only giving them certain options at school? I know it’s the state not the school, but I think it’s ridiculous,” Breslin said.