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New school rules for food and exercise

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Pennsylvania’s Board of Education is trying to erase white bread, snack cakes and high-fat potato chips from the menu at school. WHYY reports on a proposal to update the food and exercise requirements for students:

The federal government already regulates free and reduced-priced lunches. The state wants to change the rules for the other meals and snacks sold in schools.

Critics say making those other meals more nutritious would sink school profits, but board of education member Corrinne Caldwell says she wasn’t swayed by those arguments.

The board’s proposal also suggests 30 minutes of physical activity for every child each day. Caldwell says there’s been push back from some moms and dads.

Caldwell: Many parents would say: ‘Well my son’s a football player, why should he have to take all of these other things.’ What we know about even pretty rigorous high school athletics is that it seldom leads to lifetime fitness and activity.

Several school superintendents support the idea to sneak in more exercise through out the day but said they don’t have the facilities or faculty to provide a structured physical education curriculum.

Richard Killingsworth is a health policy expert with Nemours Health and Prevention Services.

Killingsworth: Unfortunately physical activity and physical education have often been on the cutting block as a result of standardize testing and campaigns like No Child Left Behind.

Killingsworth says children are hard wired to move and when they get physical activity during the day they’re more willing to participate in class.

He applauds Pennsylvania’s push but knows there’s lots of competition for instruction time.

Experts say educators can sneak extra “movement minutes” into the school day by leading nature walks during science class and providing “enhanced recess” that’s when students are coached in games that jump start the heart rate.

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