Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Horrifying! USDA "tackling obesity" by exploiting your 6yr olds to market chocolate milk!

Oy vey.

It's called the, "Fuel Up to Play 60" program and it specifically targets American school children, from Grade 1 straight on up.

According to the USDA's own blog, Fuel Up to Play 60's, "overall goal" is, "to tackle childhood obesity".

And how is it going to do that?

By having children track how many servings of specific foods they eat, and by urging them to be more active.

The kids are also able to sign up for different "Plays" that they can make to further their healthy living goals.

Sounded fun, so I decided to take a peek.

Horrified doesn't begin to describe my reaction to a program that on inspection is clearly designed solely to market dairy products in the name of "tackling" childhood obesity with the explicit imprimatur of the USDA and the nation's public schools.

I leafed through the "Healthy Eating Playbook". Of the 27 "Healthy Eating Plays", all but 4 specifically promote dairy products.

Not a surprise of course given that one of the primary funders of the program is the National Dairy Council, but it's what these as young as 6 year olds are encouraged to do during these "Healthy Eating Plays" that is truly beyond the pale. Basically they're duped into becoming active and assuredly unpaid marketers for Big Dairy.

Here's some instructions from their "Playbook" (emphasis mine):

"At the booth, pass out handouts with information about the benefits of dairy in your diet. Offer different foods on a rotating basis and let students sample new foods in exchange for having their milk mustache posted on the Web!"

"You might hold weekly or monthly tests that feature foods students need to consume more of, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat and fat-free dairy foods. "

"Create flyers, posters, table tents or even a brochure listing all of the positive reasons for choosing milk and for choosing milk in plastic versus cardboard. Ask your art department to help you create exciting visuals and graphics."

Meet with the school football coach, trainer or athletic director to talk about the benefits of athletes eating healthy, including getting the recommended servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt at breakfast, lunch, dinner and as snacks.

Ask the P.E., health and classroom teachers to highlight the benefits of low-fat and fat-free dairy as a nutrient-rich food that provides energy students need to be active.

Poll students to learn about their habits and set goals for everyone to get the recommended number of servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy each day for a month. Do students know about the benefits of milk, that flavored milk offers the same nutrients as regular milk and that it is important to get the recommended servings of dairy a day? (If they don’t know or need more information, you can use this as an opportunity to build awareness with your promotional campaign about the health benefits of milk.)

Offer pizza with low-fat and fat-free cheese as a breakfast item. Kids love pizza at any meal!

Brainstorm ideas about how to best implement this approach. For example, cafeteria line staff can directly ask students questions such as “Would you like an apple with that?” or “Would you like chocolate milk with your meal?” Signs with the same questions can also be posted in the food serving lines.

Highlight items on the school menus that are excellent as pregame or post-workout foods. Include nutrient-rich foods that students like to eat—like so-called “comfort foods”— including pizza and macaroni and cheese made with whole grains and low-fat or fat-free cheese.

Remind athletes they should always consume plenty of fluids, including low-fat and fat-free milk.

Provide information at your Training Table about nutrient-rich food items like low-fat and fat-free milk. Highlight, for example, that: Milk provides carbohydrate for energy, along with protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin and niacin (niacin equivalents). Drinking milk can be an effective way to help hydrate after a workout.

Ask your local Dairy Council® representative to be a possible special guest and resource. Students will need help from the school’s Program Advisor or another adult to make this happen.

Host an assembly and invite a dairy farmer to talk about the work they do to produce nutrient-rich foods your students are learning to choose.

Build awareness about the benefits of nutrient-rich dairy and other farmed foods by creating "point of purchase" promotions during food service. "
So there you have it.

The USDA is "tackling" childhood obesity by insidiously conscripting children to actively market dairy products with messages that include:

1. Chocolate milk is healthy, healthier even than broccoli.
2. If you exercise you need to "fuel up" with comfort foods like pizza or macaroni and cheese, never you mind about energy balance.
3. Pizza for breakfast is a great idea - as is pizza pretty much anytime.
4. Kids should be asked directly and through signs if they want to add a chocolate milk to their meal.
5. The pinnacle of healthy eating is dairy and eating more of it is always a good idea.

Brilliant plan.