A story published in the New York Post website last week explained New York City public schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is pushing to remove chocolate milk from public schools’ lunches.
The reason? To combat childhood obesity.
The article lays out the difference between white and chocolate milk:
“According to the city Health Department, 8 ounces of local public schools’ chocolate skim milk has 120 calories and 20 grams of sugar, 8 grams of which are added sugar.
The same amount of skim white milk has 90 calories and 12 grams of sugar, none added.”
Dairy farmers, whose financial straits are already dire and uncertain, disagree and brought in Congress to argue against the decision. However, decisions of this sort should not be made with the corporations in mind, but rather the students.
The question that this debate pivots on is this: Are we attacking the real problem?
We hate to break it to Mr. Carranza, but eliminating chocolate milk from the diets of children is not going to make any difference in childhood obesity in urban settings. Not when they come to school hungry, have a sub-adequate meal a la cafeteria, and leave to go home, buy a cheap bag of Doritos or Cheetos and sit at home sedentarily watching Netflix or playing PlayStation.
School lunches have suffered for years. We at The Slate remember Michelle Obama’s attempts at making school lunches healthier, which turned cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and French fries into tasteless cardboard cutouts of the real thing. Many rallied against this interference of the government.
But maybe the government can make a difference, after all. Funding classes designed to foster an understanding in food groups and how to eat healthy would provide students with tools they need to be healthy. Integrating this education into other classes would also help.
Classes on gardening, or food preparation, or culinary theory would benefit students and enable them to leave high school knowing how to prepare a well-balanced meal. State incentives to get students to a level of bare minimum, as they do for math, English and science by means of standardized testing, would help accomplish this as well.
Healthy eating is only half the formula, however. The fact that most children live sedentary lifestyles is another massive impediment to raising a healthy generation.
It is easier today than in any other age to get along without doing physical exercise. Instead of rushing home to play in the woods, or have a game of baseball or climb in trees, children are shifting to watching “Stranger Things” and playing “Fortnite.” We live in a digital age, and it is easier than any other age to be physically inactive.
This is not always the fault of the children, who are blank slates upon which society must carve out their future. Parks are few and far between, and those that do exist are oftentimes in disrepair and are not safe to let children out to play at.
Requiring students to do an after-school sport could help get the physical exercise needed; however, this might not be feasible. Not all students are pinnacles of athleticism, nor could many schools afford to fund such an overhaul. However, creating tangible milestones for students to achieve in gym class, such as sitting down with them and creating individualized goals for each student based on their physical and athletic abilities and needs, could help teach students responsibility, time management and self-awareness. Too many high school gym class programs fall just short of a joke, and students who do not want to be inactive can easily find themselves unchallenged. Walking laps around a gymnasium won’t stave off obesity, but something is better than nothing.
Together, these two cornerstones can help students get on the right path. It might not work for everyone — sometimes, obesity is ingrained in genetics and chance, and there is little some children can do to combat it. However, it remains clear to those who have ventured through the system that the system does not serve students and does not push them to be the best versions of themselves.