In St. Paul schools, the no-sweet life

St. Paul’s public schools will be “sweet-free zones” by the end of the school year, reports the Minnesota Star-Tribune. The ban includes “sweet, sticky, fat-laden [and] salty treats.”

Forty percent of St. Paul’s fourth-graders, most of whom are poor and minority, are obese, 11 percent higher than the national rate.

St. Paul administrators say they’re preparing for stricter rules that could soon be handed down through the $4.5 billion Child Nutrition Bill signed by President Obama last week.

The bill will disburse that federal money to school districts to provide healthier lunches to more students. In the next year, the federal government will write new rules that can determine what kinds of foods are allowed to be sold on school grounds, including in vending machines and at fundraisers.

Jim Tillotson, a Tufts professor of nutrition policy, said childhood obesity is a complex issue that schools can’t solve with “silver-bullet” snack rules. “Nobody has the money or the will to do the real work it’s going to take to get American kids to lose weight.”

Children aren’t enthusiastic either, reports the Star-Tribune.

“All my friends say, ‘This really sucks,'” said Misky Salad, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Chelsea Heights Elementary. “A lot of us feel it should be up to us to determine what we should do with our bodies.”

In addition to banning sweets brought from home, school cafeterias stopped serving second helpings and selling sweet deserts this year.

About Joanne


  1. If there must be school lunches, and I am not convinced of it, there’s a very inexpensive and nutritious solution. The mixture of rice, soy protein, vitamins ,minerals, dried vegetables and chicken broth that is being sent to Haiti and is also used in my community as part of the weekend backpack program. One serving provides a day’s requirements. I have assembled the packets and I have tasted the cooked results (just add water and cook like rice). Easy, cheap and nutritious; every day. Period. If the kids are really hungry, they’ll eat it.

    It’s time to state explicitly that it is the responsibility of parents to feed their kids. I see far too many “poor” kids with expensive electronics and in-brand clothes buying junk food.

    If we must have food stamps (again, I don’t think we should), there should be strict limits on what may be purchased; no prepared foods, no boxed, canned or frozen heat and eat, no high-fat or high-sodium anything, only 100% whole grain bread and cereal, etc. On the allowed list would be fresh, frozen or canned no-salt/sugar added fruits and vegetables, nonfat dry milk, dried beans, and unprocessed meats and poultry (plus low-sodium canned tuna, chicken).

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Does anybody know if the kids labeled “obese” really are? The feds have been ratcheting down the height-weight ratio recently.
    For example, when I got out of OCS forty-one years ago, underfed, overworked, stressed out, I was 6’2″, 205. I was in such good shape that, after a three-week debauch over Christmas leave, I found the fabled, fearsome Airborne School physical requirements a joke.
    Under the latest table I’ve been able to find, I would have been called “overweight”.
    IOW, has the government created a problem in order to justify expanding its power and intrusiveness in order to “solve” it?
    I know. Crazy talk. Never happen. Never happened.

  3. The school’s effort to ban food brought from home is troubling. After all, parents, not schools, get to make such decisions — and for the school to intrude into a parent’s decision on what to put in his/her child’s lunchbox is intolerable.

    For that matter, so is the effort to regulate what teachers eat themselves at school. I’d have two words for any administrator who attempted — the first of which would “rhyme with duck”. Such a restriction might not even be legal — a dozen years ago, my school district signed an exclusivity deal with Dr. Pepper and tried to ban faculty and staff from bringing non-Dr. Pepper products in their personal lunches until the state slapped them down as exceeding the authority of the district over its employees.

    In the end, this is just one more example of “mission creep” by our public schools, and it should be resisted by educators, and the public as a whole. It teaches our students not to be free citizens of a free nation, but rather to be subjects of an all-powerful regime who submit to whatever bureaucratic diktat is imposed by some government official “for their own good”.

  4. What about schools working with local farmers to bring in local fruits, vegetables and meats that are in-season? Certainly more nutritious than the grade “school” stamped products that are currently being served in schools. Obviously, price is a factor, but I would say that if you work with the schools and provide them with your food at the government subsidy rate, it would even out. It could be a win-win for both farmers and students as an education in what nutritious food looks and tastes like, rather than resorting to the prepackaged junk kids are bombarded with. That, then, would also involve getting rid of those snack machines and soda machines, both of which provide a cut of the income to schools. So it will probably never happen.
    My bigger issue is the fact that we, as a society, are now at a point that we have to educate our students in schools about what is nutritious because they can’t get that knowledge at home or anywhere else. This parallels all the other “common sense” things (acceptable social behavior, anti-bullying policies, etc) that we now have to teach because that education is not happening outside of schools. It’s a byproduct of our cultural values or lack thereof.

  5. I’m ambivalent about this ban, but I am often very dismayed by what I see my seventh graders consuming –RockStar energy drinks for breakfast; Froot Loops or Pop Tarts for snacks… Such a diet cannot be good for the health of their bodies –or minds, which is the teachers’ proper realm of concern. The brain requires more energy than any other organ in our body –it needs a constant stream of nutrients to function optimally. A sugary breakfast that fizzles out fast leaves the brain starving and languishing in late morning. I know I cannot concentrate well when I’ve run out of fuel.

  6. This bill was promoted as a “child nutrition” bill, because people (voters) are sympathetic to anything that is said to benefit children. After all, who could say “no” to something designed to help children? Congress already has power over “Big Agribusiness” – buttering the bread of lobbyists in exchange for political favor. This bill gives government control over local farmers, produce stands, and even the seeds that can be sold. It puts onerous fees and unneeded standards on small farmers to the extent that, if some changes aren’t made, could put small farms out of business. Another example of how government is the problem. Returning control of schools back to the communities they serve would be the best thing.

  7. Mike Curtis says:

    My high school has a fully functional cafeteria that produces nutritious selections to suit most omnivoric tastes. However, too many students can’t break through the lines massing at the soft drink and sugar/salt snack machines to get there.

    “Unhealthy” french fries were taken off the menu last year, but there’s a snack/soda machine posted at every entrance to the school except the main admin area. Fundraisers selling pizza slices have their supply depleted by moneyed starving masses within 5 minutes of the lunch bell.

    Obesity, real or imagined, will never be defeated by school menu regulation. Man, I sure miss those french fries.

  8. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it comforting that the government cares more about us than we do ourselves. Let’s face it. We don’t have the self-control to do what’s in our best interests, and that includes what we put in our gullets. We need more regulations and mandates to keep us healthy and to prevent health care from becoming more costly. After all, isn’t that the whole purpose of government to begin with, i.e., to take care of us?

  9. BadaBing, I hope you’re joking. I sincerely do. After all, it’s *not* government’s job to take care of us; government’s job is to help secure our God-given rights so that we can reach our own potential.

    It’s up to parents to teach kids to eat correctly. It’s no one’s business but mine what I put in my child’s lunch, or in my lunch (with very few reasonable exceptions, like alcohol). And I’m a high school teacher.

  10. What about schools working with local farmers to bring in local fruits, vegetables and meats that are in-season?

    Hey, kids, I bet we could find a barn and put on a show!

    Did anyone see that blogger who captured the joke that was Alice Waters effort to create a garden in her local school community?

    I’m with Momof4. If kids are starving, give them rations. Otherwise, stop pretending this is anything but an expensive joke.

  11. Susan, the local fruits and veggies thing has been tried and has failed; the proof is in the trash cans. By the time the kids start school, their food preferences tend to be strong enought to fight remediation. I know a local Scoutmaster who has been in charge of the kitchen brigade on camp-outs since his kids (now late MS age) were Cub Scouts. His own kids excepted, spaghetti sauce, salsa and the occasional ear of fresh corn pretty much define the boundaries of what they will eat. He hasn’t even been able to make the switch to whole grain breads, pastas and rice. I’ve researched healthy recipes (Spanish rice, other rice or potato and vegetable combinations, soups, frittatas etc) for him to try; his own kids love them, the troop ignores them. My recommendation is to shut down the school lunch programs as currently constituted and use the rice meal I mentioned above for the truly hungry. That would eliminate the need for expensive kitchens and large staffs. (oh, horrors, there will be fewer jobs) I’m perfectly OK with the elimination of all food and drink machines; I managed to get through 12 years of school without them and so did my kids.

  12. Richard Aubrey says:

    When my wife taught HS, the primary benefit of the pop dispensers was that various clubs had the privilege of picking up the empties–a surprising number had barely been slurped at–for the return money (a dime in our state). Turned out to be big bucks.
    When I was in the Boy Scouts, some kids’ food preferences were so strong that they were pretty hungry by lunch. Which they ate. Funny, that.

  13. momof4 – I don’t think anyone disputes that it is a parent’s responsibility to feed his/her children. But I think we all realize that some parents don’t feed the kids, for whatever reason. That is why we need school lunches – why on earth would we punish children and leave them hungry because their parents aren’t responsible? I’m all for limits on welfare and the (un)earned income tax credit and the child tax credit (which, by the way, phases out for higher incomes, the very people we want to encourage to have kids), and whatever else. But when it comes to kids, they should have food and education (like head start programs) and healthcare and vaccines and all the rest of it. They’re kids for God’s sake.

  14. Grumpy Taxpayer says:

    Government schools should not prevent parents from packing whatever lunches they choose for their children.

    If parents are unable or unwilling to provide food for their children, and for some reason it is determined that is the government’s job to feed them, then they can eat Plumpy’nut, which is used for famine relief.

    Kids with peanut allergies that are so bad that a whiff of peanut will kill them should probably be homeschooled or kept in a bubble anyway because they will never be able to survive in the real world.

  15. Richard Aubrey says:

    Furthert to the Scouts. Due to the times, our scout leaders were all veterans of WW II. They figured that, although our mothers wanted us to be wimps, their duty was to teach us not to be wimps. WIth a bit of historical foreshortening, it seemed that you graduate and they give a war. Being a wimp is a handicap. And you know what? Those hard old guys were right about each. Bless them.
    Which brings up the next question: The up side to being a wimp is…?

  16. I’m not suggesting that we start a garden in every school, though it IS being done is some Baltimore city schools with success and even some profit from the “market” they are able to hold each week with their excess. Instead, I’m suggesting that if we are going to provide school lunches, we do so with food that is healthy at the start with local farming partnerships.
    Momof4, using your logic, why bother continuing public education at all? We know that a child’s basic personality and learning traits are well defined by age 6 – mostly before they reach school. Does that mean, then, that we have nothing to offer in education? Of course not – part of our job as educators is to reach beyond the “palettes” we are given to expose students to other tastes that are out there. Food education and nutrition are no different. Providing them with locally grown fruits and veggies would be a start. Using your same argument from above, “if the kids are really hungry, they’ll eat it”.
    Unfortunately, we live in a society where parents don’t always teach their children what is nutritious or even provide them with food at all. I don’t think it’s government’s responsibility to take care of the public, but at the same time I know that school lunches are sometimes the only meal that a kid has in a day. With that reality, I would certainly hope the meal they receive has more nutrition than some of the junk I see floating in school cafeterias.

  17. Richard Aubrey says:

    Changing the cafeteria menu to something nutritious would be useful. Gardening or partnering with local farmers is unnecessary unless the price is lower.
    Getting rid of vending machines is also a good idea.
    That leaves the kid whose parents won’t pack lunch or give him lunch money.
    My kids were packing their own lunches by the third grade, from good food we had in the house.
    So that leaves kids whose parents don’t have decent food in the house. I don’t have much use for Child Abductive Services, but they ought to earn their money somehow.

  18. Back in my day, we ground the poor children up into a paste to feed to the other poor children.