Anita Wong, CFJC Intern
I remember growing up in the Eastlake neighborhood of East Oakland and attending a local elementary school that had food carts doing their rounds every day after school. They offered a variety of cheap food items, including ice cream, popsicles, chips, and sodas and juices. My favorite snack I used to buy was corn on a stick slathered with butter and mayonnaise, rolled in grated parmesan cheese, and sprinkled with chili powder. It was also a very popular snack among my fellow classmates. Looking back, I now realize how unhealthy it was. The only healthy item offered was sliced fruit dusted with chili powder sold in quart-sized Ziploc bags.
California is now addressing diet-related illnesses by reducing access to unhealthy foods outside school grounds. Assembly Member Bill Monning introduced AB 1687 to the California Legislature on February 14, 2012 as a way to address the growing epidemic of obesity among school-aged children. According to the bill, mobile food vendors will be prohibited from being within a 1,500 ft. radius of elementary, junior high, and high school campuses between the hours of 6am to 6pm during school days once the bill is enacted. Monning stated that this bill is not intended to target gourmet food trucks, but rather, unhealthy mobile food vendors like the vendors that I remember from my elementary school years.
Though I appreciate Assembly Member Monning’s effort in addressing diet-related illness, I do not think this will result in significant change because the bill does not address the root of the problem. Children’s eating habits are highly influenced by social institutions including family, peers, and schools. It is the practices at home and school lunch programs that need to be improved. Schools in the Bay Area already offer more nutritious food options for children in their school lunch programs. For example, a few Oakland elementary schools like Esperanza Elementary and Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy have added vegetables and whole-grain foods into their school lunch menus. The next step is to incorporate nutrition education into the home and school curriculum in order to teach and enforce healthy eating habits and its benefits.
For more information regarding the bill, you can visit: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/asm/ab_16511700/ab_1678_bill_20120214_introduced.html