Monday, April 25, 2011

Changing Nutrition Programs Can Save Money

As the 82nd Texas Legislature progressed this session, legislation regarding nutritional standards and physical education requirements in the Texas Public Schools lost attention while other important issues, such as budget cuts and bullying, became the center of education debate. 
Obesity however affects over 30 percent of Texas children—meaning that school nutrition it is not an issue that the Texas legislature can overlook. According to the CDC, obese children are more likely to develop a wide array of health problems, including cardiovascular disease and sleep apnea. Obese children also run a higher risk of becoming obese adults, making them more likely to develop heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and even cancer. Watch this video to learn more about the dangers of America's childhood obesity epidemic. 

Because public schools provide an important source of food to many of Texas’ youth, legislators need to examine and create nutritional standards and programs in these schools to combat obesity. 

Attempts to alter nutrition plans in public schools however are opposed by some American citizens. The primary argument against more strictly regulating nutritional standards is that implementing these programs would be costly. This is a reasonable concern in a recession when many states, including Texas, are cutting education funding dramatically. However, developing stronger nutritional programs in public schools actually helps save money in several ways.
  • Extensive studies by organizations, such as Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools, show that “poor nutrition and physical inactivity” cost schools money. As explained by HKHS, this is because unhealthy, obese students demand more attention from their schools. For example, these students often require more visits to school nurses and often have lower academic achievement, meaning that additional time and money is needed to combat their poor health and weak performance.
  • Also, in Texas, where education budgeting is based on attendance, overweight children can greatly reduce funding for schools. Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools also explains obese children miss an average of one day of school each month. In larger school districts, this can add up to about $5.5 million of lost funding.
  • Furthermore, the minimal short-term costs of implementing better nutrition programs to combat obesity will ultimately cost states less money than the long-term health care costs obese children will face. In their pamphlet, Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools shows that Texas estimates that by 2040 obesity-related medical issues will cost the state $39 billion. According to PBS, implementing the federal government's "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act" will only cost the government only $4.5 billion.  
These examples highlight ways in which implementing better nutritional plans in public schools can help save money.  Some Americans dismiss the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and other attempts to better school nutrition assuming that these programs will be funded in tax dollars—money that will ultimately come out of their pockets. However, upon further examining the programs, it is clear that bettering nutrition in schools will help America's children while saving money.

These links provide information on the progress of bills relating to school nutrition in the 82nd Texas Legislature:
HB 127: relating to the types of beverages that may be sold to students on public school campuses; referred to Public Health.
HB 280: relating to requiring a health credit for high school graduation; referred to Public Education.
HB 281: relating to physical education credits required for high school graduation; referred to Public Education.
HB 643: relating to summer nutrition programs in school districts; referred to Agriculture and Livestock committee.
SB 185: relating to physical activity requirements for students in public schools; refereed to Education.
SB 225: relating to including in public school campus improvement plans and in local school health advisory council reports to school district boards of trustees certain goals and objectives or information in order to promote improved student health; referred to Education.

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