There has been a big push at the national level to promote better nutrition and increase exercise for children. There is nothing wrong with telling kids to eat better and play outside, but North Carolina’s latest legislative attempt to jump on the bandwagon misses the mark entirely.
House Bill 840: Healthier and Greener Schools Act–sponsored by Reps. Harrison (D-Guilford), Cotham (D-Mecklenburg), Carney (D- Mecklenburg), and Glazier (D- Cumberland)—would dramatically increase the size of the education bureaucracy to enforce unrealistic and expensive requirements.
There are probably enough bad ideas in HB 840 to feature it as a Bad Bill of the Week for at least a month. This bill seeks to take control of every aspect of a child’s health down to the sodium content of every meal. Dissecting every detail of this lengthy bill could fill a book, but that is not our intent here. Instead, you can get a flavor of the mind-numbing micro-managing involved in the bill with an outline of some of bill’s requirements and mandates. They include:
- A requirement that each local school administrative unit establish a facility to prepare, process, grow and store healthy and nutritious foods for schools and nonprofit organizations. Does this mean that N.C. schools will be in the farming business?
- A requirement that public schools offer free breakfasts to all students, not just the ones that qualify for free and reduced lunches.
- Taste tests and surveys to determine student preferences for the contents of their free breakfasts.
- A requirement that schools promote healthy eating to students, faculty, staff and parents. The bill, however, exemps food provided to staff from nutritional requirements.
- A fine of $500 dollars a day for schools that offer snack food that fails to meet nutritional requirements.
- Strict adherence to prescribed physical activity requirements.
- Establishment of an environmental programs office within the Department of Public Instruction to develop plans for recycling, composting, and using “green” cleaning supplies.
- Establishment of a School Gardens Program within the Department of Public Instruction to study school gardens.
- A requirement that public and charter schools establish and operate school health centers, the bill does not define the role of the proposed centers.
- Creation of the Healthy Youth and Schools Commission to advise the General Assembly on schools.
The state doesn’t need to be spending money on monitoring to the milligram student’s nutritional intakes or building even more bureaucracy to study school gardens at a time like this (or at any time for that matter).
House Bill 840 is the “Bad Bill of the Week” because it distracts from the real goal of the public school system: educating children.