Although the state of New York is on the lower end of the obesity spectrum in the US (with 24.4% in 2008, compared to an average of 26% overall), the Big Apple has made many attempts to control their residents' waistlines in recent years. First the Board of Health mandated that restaurants post calorie information on their menus (CNN Health). Then the Department of Education attacked the sugary drinks and fatty snacks in vending machines, contracting with the likes of Snapple in hopes of implanting good habits in the young (WNYC news). But they've gone a little too far with the latest measure: banning bake sales.
Now, I'm all for encouraging children to eat healthily. Scrapping the greasy pizza in the cafeteria and limiting easy access to salted-saturated-fat-parading-as-potatoes is a good idea. Giving kids Pepsi and Honey Buns at break will affect their ability to pay attention in class later in the day, not to mention the long-term health repercussions.
However, Oreos and blueberry muffins baked by the football team are on two completely different levels. Homemade goodies are a rare treat. Kids don't just wolf them down; they become intoxicated by the scent, crowd around the table excitedly clutching dollar bills, and savor them with friends. I've never seen one do the same with boring spongy HoHos, which they grab mindlessly and hunger for an hour later. And despite being "calorie traps," homemade goodies are made with more wholesome ingredients than some of the things the school board OK'd: so-called healthy baked Doritos and "lower-sugar granola bars." Take a look at the ingredient list for Quaker 25% Less Sugar Chewy bars, which contain brown sugar, sugar, malted barley extract, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, molasses, and sucralose, as well as hydrogenated oils. Don't get me started on the diet sodas, which are also considered kosher despite seriously screwing with people's appetites.
The NYC Education Board's dietitians seem to believe teenagers should eat nothing but turkey on whole wheat, cut-up fruit and carrot sticks. In attempting to eliminate everything with a remotely unhealthy profile from school grounds, they're missing an opportunity to teach a key concept that every child should master: moderation. What do you think the students do as soon as the bell rings at 2:30? Make a beeline for forbidden Snickers, of course. Wouldn't it be better if they learned to crave David's mom's oatmeal raisin cookies instead?
Bake sales abounded for decades before the "obesity epidemic" struck. Evidence the 1950s, when only 10% of the population was obese but the quintessential wife had an apron on and a tray of fresh cookies in hand. The problem isn't that fudge brownies and poppy-seed muffins exist, but that they've been watered down with high fructose corn syrup, engorged to the size of basketballs, and distributed en masse to every gas station and Dollar General in the country. Remember Anne of Green Gables waltzing around on cloud nine for days after her first taste of ice cream at a church social? There were few 250-pound individuals walking the streets in the days when treats were linked to times of celebration.
NYC school administrators ought to remember this and consider adopting a less Puritan and ultimately damaging approach to encouraging nutrition.