Earlier this month, state health officials in Massachusetts approved a school bake sale ban ostensibly designed to combat youth obesity.
The ban, scheduled to become effective in August, prohibited the sale of sweets in schools during the school day and 30 minutes before and after the start of classes.
“We’re at a place in Massachusetts where one-third of our kids in schools are either overweight or obese,” the health department’s medical director, Lauren Smith, told The Patriot Ledger newspaper.
“The goal is to create an environment in schools where kids have an opportunity to make choices among healthy options.”
Massachusetts state officials have even pushed for schools to expand the ban 24/7 to include evening, weekend and community events such as banquets, door-to-door candy sales and football games.
The ban has created a flurry of outcries in protest of a state government agency dictating control over what people can and cannot eat.
“My concern is we’re regulating what people can eat, and I have a problem with that, said Brian Giovanoni, a school Committeeman.
“I respect the state for what they’re trying to do, but I think they’ve gone off the deep end. I don’t want someone telling me how to do my job as a parent.”
Dr. Lauren Smith, DPH’s medical director, told the Boston Herald, “We’re not trying to get into anyone’s lunch box.”
But that’s precisely what the state is attempting to do.
Food fundraisers are a main source of school revenue for activities such as sending the Danvers High School Falcon Band to the Rose Bowl Parade in California.
“If you want to make a quick $250, you hold a bake sale,” said Sandy Malec, vice president of the Horace Mann Elementary School PTO in Newtonville.
“The goal is to raise money,” a concerned school parent said. “You’re going to be able to sell pizza. You’re not going to get that selling apples and bananas. It’s silly.”
Critics argue obesity has more to do with lack of exercise than with food choices, and stress the ban is part of a “broader trend toward micromanaging children’s lives”.
Carson C. Chow, an M.I.T.-trained mathematician and physicist, attributes the obesity epidemic in the United States to an overproduction of food, and dismisses genetics and lack of physical exercise as contributing factors.
Yes, there are people who are genetically disposed to obesity, Chow says, but if they live in societies where there isn’t a lot of food, they don’t get obese. For them, and for us, it’s supply that’s the issue.”
According to Chow, who developed a mathematical model predicting how body composition changes in response to food intake, increased food production explains current levels of US obesity.
Chow suggests that with such a huge food supply, food marketing got better and restaurant food got cheaper.
“The low cost of food fueled the growth of the fast-food industry. If food were expensive, you couldn’t have fast food” — and fast-food a primary contributing factor to obesity.
Bake Sale Ban Lifted
The ban has since been struck down by an amendment in the Massachusetts House, signed by Gov. Deval Patrick.
Republican state Rep. Brad Hill, who sponsored the amendment, said schools should be allowed to make their own decision on when to hold bake sales.
“I hate to be pejorative, but it’s a bunch of do-gooders who really think they know better,” said Sen. Michael R. Knapik, R-Westfield, referring to state health and education officials who support the ban.
Knapik accused government bureaucracies of running amok, and added that Massachusetts has become a “national laughingstock” over the strict new guidelines.
“This has brought it to the absurd level. There are other issues that we need to contend with.”