"Junk" Policy

The ASD "junk-food" policy will not reduce obesity and today's ADN editorial is misleading in suggesting that the policy may be having some impact on our students. This is just more "feel good" policy that was dubious when it was adopted and dubious now. That is not to say that we don't have a crisis on our hands with obesity. We certainly do. But we are simply fooling ourselves if we believe that we are really changing student behavior with the "junk food" policy.

Go into any high school and you will likely still find Rice Crispy Treats (90 calories, 2.5g fat, 17 carbs for one bar) and sugar laden beverages for sale (while Coke Classic has 97 calories per 8 fluid ounces, Welch's Apple Juice has 480 calories per 8 ounces). To put this into perspective, 2 ounces of apple juice has the same sugar content as 8 ounces of Coke!

Compounding the problem is that we are enabling problematic behavior. At the elementary level principals are sneaking cupcakes into classrooms. At the high school level students are leaving campuses to consume 2000 calorie lunches and stocking their lockers with snacks. We need to address diet and behavior as a community. If you really want to control caloric intake on school premises then get rid of vending machines in the schools altogether, stop letting students leave campus for lunch, bar the bringing of any food stuffs into the school by students and monitor the principals. I have yet to meet anyone with the stomach to try and implement that!

Let's put this in terms all Alaskans will feel comfortable with. Given a random group of Alaskans, broach the topic of hand gun registration and a lively debate will ensure. But suggest that you should have to register .45 caliber revolvers but not 9 millimeter pistols and all those debating would roar with derision. That is exactly what we are doing with the current policy. District data suggested that weight gain from vending foods was likely limited; many students acted responsibly with respect to snacks, etc. But we decided to take a "shot gun" approach and then replaced the "shot" with marshmallows. Other than some introducing inconvenience all we did is eviscerate school activity funds which relied on vending machine revenue (there simply aren't that many high school students still interested in apple juice and its fattening.....)

Policy should be adopted because it will effect change, not because it is politically expedient or has a nice "ring" to it. Determination of whether the policy is successful must be based on evaluation of the data. That means we need to know the calories consumed through vending machines and how those calories were distributed across the student population. We don't have that data, and while we could look at change in calories delivered by the vending machines, that would not tell us how those calories were distributed across the student body, nor what students may have done to side-step or undermine the policy.

In sum, the policy was never susceptible of evaluation, caused inconvenience for everyone involved, did not really lower the availability of snack food calories to students and created a loss of school revenue of tens of thousands of dollars. And this is just the tip of the iceberg in that this is the kind of policy adopted every day by a Board that believes that our schools are in "great shape".

This communication was paid for by Marc Grober, 5610 Radcliff Dr. Anchorage, AK 99504