A proposed state senate bill, SB230, seeks to ban the sale of foods containing trans fats at Nevada’s public schools. If passed, this bill would put Nevada on a growing list of states, cities and even countries banning the substance (in some way) from being sold.
According to the Mayo Clinic, trans fats raise your bad cholesterol and decrease the good cholesterol. It has also been linked to certain types of cancer, allergies, and type-2 diabetes. You typically find trans fats — also known as trans fatty acid or partially hydrogenated oil — in mass-produced baked goods, fast food, margarine and many other processed foods. (Why is being bad so delicious?)
In 2006, New York City became one of the first cities in America to ban trans fats in restaurants. California is the first state to ban the use of cooking oils containing trans-fats. And now Sweden has moved to ban the fats as well.
I am surprised that such a progressive food policy was introduced in the Nevada Legislature. And I think it’s a good idea. I know some folks will push-back saying this is the “Nanny State” meddling. But I think the idea that unhealthy foods are sold to kids at schools is hypocritical. We teach them one thing in health class — balanced diet, fruits and veggies are best, and get your exercise — and then we eliminate PE from school budgets and sell them french fries and soda at lunch.
This bill does not ban students from bringing things from home. And it certainly does not police what you eat or drink away from school. It’s just plain common sense that we should be giving kids healthy foods and modeling good portions and nutritious options at school. This may be the only place they get it!
Considering that 31 million kids got federally funded reduced cost school lunches in 2009 (I couldn’t find Nevada-only stats), we’re also talking about tax-payer dollars going toward unhealthy foods that then contribute to obesity and poor health. According to the US Dept of Health and Human Services, obese children are a “significant public health problem” in our country. The number of obese adolescents has tripled since 1980. And hospital costs for obese children were estimated at $127 million between 1997-1999, a huge increase from $35 million between 1979-1981.
In addition to this, minorities are at an increased risk for obesity and obesity-related illnesses including high cholesterol, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, depression, respiratory ailments, and orthopedic problems.
Obesity disproportionately affects certain minority youth populations. NHANES found that African American and Mexican American adolescents ages 12-19 were more likely to be overweight, at 21 percent and 23 percent respectively, than non-Hispanic White adolescents (14 percent). In children 6-11 years old, 22 percent of Mexican American children were overweight, whereas 20 percent of African American children and 14 percent of non-Hispanic White children were overweight. In addition to the children and teens who were overweight in 1999-2002, another 15 percent were at risk of becoming overweight., In a national survey of American Indian children 5-18 years old, 39 percent were found to be overweight or at risk for overweight. 
This bill would not only impact school lunch (and breakfast) programs but also fundraising food sales including bake sales and concessions at sporting events. I know that everyone likes their nachos and brownies, but surely there are other equally delicious treats out there. Walk through a treat aisles at the grocery store sometime and you’ll find readily available mass-produced cookies, cakes, and the like that come without trans fats. And the fact is, with so many places banning trans fats, vendors of tasty treats will fall in line and offer yummy things without them. That’s just supply-and-demand business. Don’t worry. They’ll find new tasty things to make us drool!
And if you look at the “fiscal notes” section of this bill, you will find only one county claiming a potential loss of funds from this bill. White Pine County claims they will lose $2,160 out of their budget, which amounts to less than 1% of their total budget. And lest you feel that rural counties will bear the brunt of this, Storey, Pershing, Nye, Mineral, Lincoln, and Esmeralda counties all listed $0 impact. (Washoe and Clark also listed $0 impact. All other counties have not reported.)
There’s no way around this. If we keep feeding our kids crap, they will grow up with health issues that will plague them all through their lives and that will result in millions in health care dollars and loss of productivity. This is an opportunity to teach our kids a healthy lesson they can use for (a hopefully long and healthy) life.
Cross-posted on The Sin City Siren.