Fruit and vegetable requirement is counterproductive

The new requirement that students take more fruits and vegetables in their school lunches has led to decreased consumption and increased waste. A study demonstrating this result was published in the Journal of Public Health: Impact of the National School Lunch Program on Fruit and Vegetable Selection in Northeastern Elementary Schoolchildren, 2012-2013.

While these data from one geographic area may not be generalizable to other regions, we based the measures of consumption and waste on validated, objective measures,” the study said. “Furthermore, the findings are consistent with those from other parts of the country where requiring a child to select an FV also corresponded with decreased consumption and increased food waste.”

“The basic question we wanted to explore was: does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correspond with consumption. The answer was clearly no,” Amin, the lead author of the study, said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post.

The Post article explains why the healthy school lunch program is in trouble:

What they found was worrisome on several fronts. Because they were forced to do it, children took fruits and vegetables — 29 percent more in fact. But their consumption of fruits and vegetables actually went down 13 percent after the mandate took effect and, worse, they were throwing away a distressing 56 percent more than before.

The waste each child (or tray) was producing went from a quarter of a cup to more than a 39 percent of a cup each meal. In many cases, the researchers wrote, “children did not even taste the [fruits and vegetables] they chose at lunch.”

My grandmother, Lois Hazlehurst Fitz, used to say, “Willful waste makes woeful want.”

It is time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to abandon this unsuccessful experiment which has led to willful waste. Some may argue that more food going into the trash is still worthwhile because at least it will lead to increased consumption. However, since consumption has decreased, the waste is even more troubling. This is an inexcusable waste of food.

It is great to offer a nice variety of fruits and vegetables; however, it is counterproductive to serve unwanted food to students.

Advocates recommend more time for recess for Kansas schools

Refocus on recess, health advocates tell schools. The Wichita Eagle reports that “most elementary and middle schools in Kansas don’t offer 20-minutes recess, which has been shown to improve children’s behavior, academic performance, health and well-being.”

The Kansas Health Foundation funded a study conducted by the Kansas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance that showed that most schools are opting for shorter breaks for students, and “teachers at six elementary schools and 14 preschools said their schools don’t offer recess at all.”


Kasich whimsically proposes abolishing teachers’ lounges

Ohio Governor John Kasich, musing about what he would do if he were to become king, rather than president, of the United States, said he would abolish all teachers’ lounges. Speaking at an education forum attended by six of the Republican presidential candidates, Kasich imagined that the lounges are places where teachers “sit together and worry about “woe is us.”

Politico reportsAmerican Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten fired back on Twitter.

.@JohnKasich -after u get rid of places teachers eat lunch,what’s next -getting rid of teachers’ chairs so they stand all day? #walkitback

And Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, bashed Kasich for his expansion of private school vouchers and past cuts to education spending.

“Educators will absolutely discuss how they can overcome these obstacles to help their students, as well as hold elected leaders accountable,” she said in a statement.

Politico also posted Takeaways from the GOP education forum, which was held Wednesday at Londonderry, N.H.

Teacher certification can be costly

Time has an interesting article detailing the often costly hurdles teachers must clear to become certified in the various states: What it really takes to become an elementary school teacher. 

Forty-four states require candidates to take a test or series of tests as part of their preparation; 25 states require students to have a specific grade point average before entering a teacher preparation program.

“These teachers are unnecessarily burdened by the increasing costs of standardized testing,” Linda Banks-Santilli says. “And this is even before they have an opportunity to enter a field in which the national average salary was $56,383 in 2014.”

Graduation rates rise

“More students are graduating from high school than ever before, and that number could rise again with this year’s seniors,” the Atlantic reports.

The national graduation rate for the 2012-13 school year was 81 percent, which was up from 80 percent the year before and 79 percent the year before that, according to the U.S. Department of Education. This sort of growth is possible as a result of the huge improvements in the numbers of black and Latinos getting their diplomas. But it’s also due to specific state improvements.



Skipping breakfast may not be linked to greater weight gain

The science of skipping breakfast: How government nutritionists may have gotten it wrong. Peter Whoriskey reports that there are no randomized controlled trials of the hypothesis that skipping breakfast can cause greater weight gain, but the 2010 Dietary Guidelines committee did cite several observational studies:

“Modest evidence suggests that children who do not eat breakfast are at increased risk of overweight and obesity,” the advisory committee said. “The evidence is stronger for adolescents.” As for adults, the evidence was described as “inconsistent.”

“When in the coming months the government unveils the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, it is unclear the advice on breakfast and weight gain will be included,” Whoriskey says. “The 2015 advisory committee issued a report that steered clear of the subject of skipping breakfast and weight.”

Looking at one variable, such as weight, may not tell the whole story about the relative benefits of breakfast. This is particularly true when it comes to the benefits of breakfast for children. The school breakfast program can clearly be a benefit to the young customers.

Sending report cards on students’ weight to parents may not be very helpful

‘Body’ report cards aren’t influencing Arkansas teenagers. The New York Times reports that a new study of high school juniors and seniors in Arkansas shows that letters regarding their body mass index (B.M.I..) that were sent to families had almost no effect on rates of obesity.The disappointing results not only raise questions about the efficacy of the letters but highlight the challenges schools face more generally in addressing adolescent obesity.”

Kevin A. Gee, the author of the study, which looked at high school juniors and seniors in Arkansas and appears in The Journal of Adolescent Health, said that while the letters attempted to embed in a school setting the public-health goal of slowing obesity, the reality of adolescence could confound the best intentions.

“The typical 16-year-old’s reaction to getting a letter at home and having your parents tell you to eat right and exercise, would be, ‘Don’t nag me,’ said Dr. Gee, an assistant professor of education policy at the University of California, Davis.

The Times reports that 25 states weigh public school students to monitor population data on obesity rates. Ten of these states notify parents of the results. Dominique G. Ruggieri, a faculty fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Public Health Initiatives, said in an interview that the letters could be an important resource for parents:

Still, she said, the impact of the letters depended largely on their content and means of delivery. Some districts send three-page letters, explaining that the B.M.I. score is screening tool, not a diagnosis, and offer practical follow-up suggestions. Other districts send home merely a number on a slip of paper.

And some districts that cannot afford to mail the letters, she added, hand them to students. That may likely guarantee that the delivery will be rerouted: Either the letter descends in the bottom of that archaeological dig known as the backpack, or the student tosses it away.


Baltimore County needs later school start times

Baltimore County is going the wrong direction on school start times. Andra Williams Broadwater says, “This fall, students at 11 schools in Baltimore County will start their days five to 15 minutes earlier than last year, thanks to changes approved by the Baltimore County School Board in June.”

High schools in Baltimore County begin as early at 7:10, meaning thousands of our students are on the bus in the 6 a.m. hour. These hours are incompatible with known sleep patterns of teenagers, most of whom need about 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep a night. Shifts in adolescents’ physiology limit most adolescents’ ability to fall asleep much before 11 p.m., regardless of homework and extracurricular demands or electronic distractions.

Parents are asked to provide more school supplies

Strapped schools ask parents for copier paper, cleaning supplies, tissues. The Washington Post reports, “While nearly all schools frame supply lists as a request and not a requirement, the assumption that families will comply is stressful for those with low incomes, said Dan Cardinali, president of Communities In Schools.”

For the coming school year, families on average will spend $642 for elementary school students, $918 for middle school students and $1,284 for high school students, according to a recent study by Huntington Bank. Those amounts include not only school supplies but also fees, which schools are increasingly charging for extracurricular activities, workbooks, textbooks and the use of school laboratories.

More incentives needed for teachers

Frank Bruni says the news of teacher shortages demonstrates that we must make teaching rewarding “so that it beckons to not only enough college graduates but to a robust share of the very best of them.”

Better pay is needed. Licensing laws should make it easier for teachers to move from one state to another.

Dan Brown, a co-director of Educators Rising, which encourages teenagers to contemplate careers in the classroom, said that teaching might be ready for its own Flexner Report, an early 1900s document that revolutionized medical schools and raised the bar for American medicine, contributing to the aura that surrounds physicians today.

He also asked why, in the intensifying political discussions about making college more affordable, there’s not more talk of methods “to recognize and incentivize future public servants,” foremost among them teachers.