Here’s a sample of what came home in my sons’ backpacks last week: a flier announcing a before-school sale on bags of Hot Cheetos, Funyuns and other high-salt-and-fat junk foods. Plus, reminders about two separate parent-teacher organization fundraisers — one an offer to buy candied apples and the other a request for the children to sell chocolate bars.
I also found notices for a “Wendy’s night,” in which 10percent of what is purchases at the fast-food chain gets kicked back to the school, and another reminding me to bring in my Box Tops for Education. When the branded labels found on General Mills products — the flier prominently featured pizza rolls, cake mixes and refrigerated cookie dough — are returned to the corporation, the schools earn cash. All this was in addition to the stalwart “Market Day” catalog, another school fundraiser that hard-sells high-calorie treat foods.
This is what our communities are up against. We’re in the middle of a national, multigenerational obesity epidemic, yet so many of our public schools are in such tight financial spots that they resort to unhealthy appeals to help fund programs they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.
The U.S. Census Bureau just released data showing that in 2010, 45 percent of all children in America lived in school districts with poverty rates greater than 20 percent. An additional 34 percent of children lived in districts with poverty rates between 10 percent and 20 percent.