If you are registering your children for school in Iowa this fall, you may have an extra form to fill out.
In January, the Iowa Senate passed an act (or a revision of an earlier act) to ensure that kids in Iowa who attend public schools live healthier, more active lives. On the surface, this sounds like a wonderful idea. The act sets up a lot of helpful committees (that I won’t detail here), establishes nutritional guidelines for all foods sold on school grounds, and requires students to have CPR training before they graduate. So far, these things seem like feasible and manageable changes to be made, even in a small school district like ours.
But wait, there’s more! It also requires that schools ensure that all students in K-3 have 30 minutes of physical activity daily and that those in grades 6-12 have 120 minutes of activity weekly. (The copy I read left out grades 3, 4, and 5, but I assume they were included on the original document.) I think this is somewhat manageable for elementary kids. At least with recess there is an opportunity for physical activity. (Though many kids tend to do more standing and talking than playing.)
The bigger problem arises in the junior high and high school area. If kids participate in sports or are in a PE class, they’re covered. If not, they are supposed to participate in “non-school” activities. (This is where the form comes in. You will need to detail what activities your child will be involved in to meet the requirement.) My question is, how on earth are the schools supposed to ensure that kids are actually doing anything outside of school? On top of that, many high school kids drive straight to a job right after classes and then go home to homework and bed. I think we can safely assume they aren’t squeezing in a half-hour run on a regular basis. (Can we count “burger-flipping” as a physical activity?)
We all know that our health care system is overloaded (at least in part) due to our sedentary lifestyles and terrible eating habits. Anything that helps kids develop healthy habits and avoid things like obesity, heart disease and diabetes is a very good thing.This act addresses a small part of that in limiting the junk food kids have access to at school. (And the CPR training is a great tool.) But that is a drop in an ocean of french fries and video games. Kids have plenty of access to bad food outside of school. And while the idea that kids should exercise is great, we can’t really expect the schools to make sure that happens outside of school.
While well meaning, this act will probably have very little impact, as there is no structure supporting it. It would be great if signing a piece of paper at registration would ensure that kids ate well and exercised. But in the end this act is just so much wishful thinking.