August 20, 2012

Our View: Portland school soda ban a good lesson for kids

But it will take education in addition to limits to make a difference in childhood obesity.

Congratulations to Portland school officials for instituting a pro-family, pro-student health policy regarding the sale of sugary soft drinks in the schools and at school events.

Starting with the first day of school, students and employees will not be able to buy sodas at the school cafeteria or from vending machines, even those in teacher lounges. It will go along with other policies that substitute healthier choices for students at all levels.

Critics have predictably accused the schools of overreaching and said that these decisions are better made by parents. That misses the best thing about the soda ban: This policy will support parents who try to teach their children to make healthy food choices but have been undermined at school by lax nutrition policies.

If parents want to buy sodas for their children, they are free to do so. Now parents who want their children to live without sugary soft drinks won't have to worry about what he or she will be offered at school.

Childhood obesity is a national epidemic, causing expensive, lifelong health problems that could be avoided if the families made better health choices.

Teaching kids to avoid overconsumption of sugary soft drinks is a key part of the battle against obesity. Sodas are not only loaded with empty calories that can lead children to put on weight, they also displace healthier food from a child's diet.

By limiting the intake of these drinks, schools can help teach children and their parents to make healthier choices. Education is the key. Studies have shown only slight gains in states that have legal limits on junk food, so rules imposed by schools and other institutions shouldn't be seen as the solution to childhood obesity.

It's a multi-front battle that should include nutritional guidance for families as well as instruction in cooking tasty meals and snacks that are made of healthy ingredients. In that environment, a school soda ban is a helpful backstop for the child's parent or caregiver.

School starts in three weeks. Let's hope the soda ban in Portland is the first of many lessons in good health and nutrition.

 

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