Prevent restaurants from using toys to lure kids to meals high in fat, sugar and calories. The law prohibits restaurants in unincorporated parts of the county from giving away goodies unless the meals meet certain nutritional guidelines. More and more in recent years, fast-food critics say restaurants have encouraged families to make unhealthy choices by offering Iron Man Cyclone Spinning Robot Drones and Barbie Mermaid dolls with their kids' meals.
Reportedly, more then 9 million children between the ages 6 and 19 are overweight and in the last 30 years the percentage of overweight 6 to 11 year olds has risen from 4% to 17%. Link. There has been a push across the nation to fight childhood obesity by attacking fast-food menus, soda, and snacks.
But here’s a novel idea: why don’t cities and states fight childhood obesity by increasing funding and requirements for physical education? Getting kids more active is the key to a healthier lifestyle. It is no surprise that childhood obesity has increased as cities and states cutback on physical education programs. This problem was known at least as early as 2004. Only 6% of schools nationally provide the recommended daily gym class to all students. Link.
Georgia eliminated the legal mandate for physical education and recess in schools in 2000 while Florida and New Mexico allow marching band as a substitute for physical education. Arkansas decided that 9th graders are no longer requited to gym. Link. Not surprisingly, Georgia, Arkansas, and New Mexico are in the highest percentile of childhood overweight & obesity rates, while Florida is in the second highest percentile. Link.
These states have left it up to local school districts to decide how much exercise students should get. These school districts, however, are under the strain of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) academic requirements and are channeling resources to meet NCLB requirements. Link. A study has shown that the current phys ed requirements do not promote exercise or fight obesity. Link. That’s little surprise because having a child—or adult—exercise no more than 1 day a week for a couple of minutes will do nothing for overall health.
Back to California and Santa Clara County. In California, 30% of children are overweight or obese. California requires 3 hours and 20 minutes of physical education every 10 days for students 1st through 6th grades, but half the schools in the state have failed to meet this minimum requirement. Link.
You want to fight childhood obesity? Increase phys ed requirements and funding and make sure schools are meeting these requirements. The alternative is what we have now and taking Happy Meal toys away will do nothing but have unhappy, overweight children.