Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

Blog: Will lawmakers halt progress on student health?

The state just released its biennial Healthy Youth Survey, which gathers anonymous responses from middle and high school students around the state on a number of health-related topics.

The survey results show some great progress on nutrition, but the improvements could come to a halt if the state moves forward with a bill to eliminate nutrition and physical exercise goals in the schools.

The good news in the Healthy Youth Survey is linked to policies, created over the past several years, that limit the sale of junk food in the public schools. The percentage of kids in grades 10 and 12 who reported drinking two or more sodas a day dropped from about 20 percent in 2006 to around 15 percent in 2008. Drinking other sweetened beverages at school also decreased. School policies limiting sales of sodas and other sweetened beverages may have contributed to this improvement as fewer 10th and 12th-graders reported buying these beverages at school, according to the state Department of Health.

Unfortunately, a bill moving through the Senate, SSB 5880, would halt development of nutrition and physical exercise goals that were set forth in the 2007 Cover All Kids bill. Considered a key component of improving the health of children and youth, the goals were intended to help districts craft nutrition and exercise policies and to provide guidance by developing a model policy schools could use or adapt.

Losing these voluntary goals in a bill that seeks to reduce unfunded mandates on school districts is particularly inappropriate as these are not mandates. It would be a step backwards in the healthy progress we have made by encouraging students to eat well and exercise.

--by Ruth Schubert