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The proposed rules to ban junk food in elementary and middle schools won't teach children proper nutritional habits.I

nstead, the rules will give children an early introduction to adult-level cynicism.

Some school districts, such as Normal-based Unit 5, won't have to worry too much about the changes because they use smaller portion sizes and don't have vending machines accessible to children. But they might have to explain to little Joey and Susie why the state thinks some kinds of milk are worse than a bag of potato chips.

If that doesn't make sense to you, you are not alone.

A Unit 5 official also notes that limiting what schools offer to eat might result in children bringing more junk food from home, counteracting the goal of the rule change.

The legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules should reject these rules and tell the State Board of Education to do its homework over.

Remember the best-selling book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum?

Well, kindergarteners are about to learn that Cheetos are better than milk.

Along with their ABCs they will learn that bureaucracy and common sense do not go hand in hand. Couldn't we have waited until at least high school civics class for that lesson?

The merits if any of having the State Board of Education dictate whether local schools can sell "junk food" to youngsters were covered in an earlier editorial. (Short answer: Leave the decision to local school boards.)

But even if we accept that junk food rules are a good idea, the state board's proposed rules - developed after an edict from the governor - don't pass the logic test. Or maybe they are too logical.

Current rules ban various categories of food, such as candy, potato chips, carbonated beverages and fruit drinks containing less than 50 percent fruit juice, from being sold in food service areas during meal periods.

The proposed rules apply the ban throughout the school day and are based on a food's nutritional content - which leads to such absurd results as banning whole milk while baked Cheetos are practically considered health food.

The culprit is the fat content and calories of whole milk, which is higher than many baked "snack" foods.

So the state board is technically right about what constitutes junk food by that narrow definition. It is important for children - and adults - to look more closely at the nutritional content of food. But bureaucrats also have to look more closely at the practical content of their rules, as well as the results.

Pat Powers, director of food service for the Normal-based Unit 5 school district, doesn't think the rules will have a great impact on schools in her district. The district's elementary schools don't have vending machines available to children during the day and small portion sizes might keep many snacks below the threshold that puts them in the "junk food" category.

However, she is concerned that "the more they restrict choices of what we can offer, the more kids will bring things from home."

It's also unclear how the rules would apply to food given as rewards such as a pizza party for the class that reads the most books or treats handed out by a teacher.

Here's some food for thought: Give children good food choices but also give school district officials freedom of choice.


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