As more countries adopt the U.S. fast food culture, they are also beginning to see the ill effects of it. Obesity rates are rising not just in the U.S., but in many countries around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide there are 22 million children under the age of five who are overweight. And Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon claims that these numbers are especially true in his country. According to Calderon, childhood obesity has “more than tripled over the last 30 years,” which is why this week he announced a ban on all junk food, soda, and sweets in Mexican public schools.
Although the ban will prohibit processed foods, sugary drinks, and even fried tacos from lunch lines, many schools in Mexico don’t have their own cafeterias or school lunch programs. Often times students get their meals from food vendors located outside of school grounds, where the ban will not have any jurisdiction. Education Minister Alonso Lujambi says that in the future there will be a push to get vendors to sell healthier items to students.
Even though the ban is going to have small reach because of the lack of a large scale school lunch program, kudos to President Calderon for doing something about childhood obesity in his country. It’s time for the United States to take a cue from our neighbors to the south and ban all processed and sugary foods from schools. I realize that the cost of revamping school lunch programs will be significant, but if we don’t pay for it now, we’ll be paying for it later. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006 the direct and indirect costs associated with obesity-related conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease accounted for $147 billion annually.
Getting children to have healthy eating habits at a young age will lead to healthy eating later in life. We send children to school to learn — let’s teach them about healthy eating.
Image via mynameisharsha