By Sioux City Journal
Obesity among children is a growing, serious problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 are obese, triple the number in 1980.
All Americans should be alarmed by this trend and support measures to reduce childhood obesity because we all have a stake in the health of our kids.
Obesity leads to a multitude of health problems, such as heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Directly or indirectly, as a society and as taxpayers, Americans share the costs associated with obesity-produced increases in illnesses and diseases.
For those reasons, we support new United States Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines for school lunches, including limits on calories and sodium and an increase in servings of fruits and vegetables. School districts must meet the new guidelines or lose the federal subsidies they receive for meals they serve.
We understand few, if any school districts can afford to lose those subsidies and keep the cost of meals at a manageable level for families. Still, in our view, by seeking to insure the taxpayer money it spends on school lunches promotes improved nutrition and health among children and, by extension, helps reduce childhood obesity, the USDA is acting in appropriate, responsible and fiscally prudent fashion.
Are tweaks necessary within the new guidelines? Perhaps.
For example, we are sympathetic to complaints by some parents and students that the new school lunches are too small. We do not wish for any child to go through the school day hungry, so we would support looking into ways to increase the size or quantity of servings without sacrificing nutrition.
What we do not wish to see is short-sighted criticisms lead to a reversal of valuable new rules we believe serve the greater societal good in the long term by meeting important goals of improved nutrition and health for children and reduced obesity among children.