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Children's Health

Board allows exemptions for bake sale fundraisers

In a decision that weighed federal school nutrition regulations against local districts’ efforts to raise funds, a state board has come down on the side of local autonomy.

John Barge

John Barge

By a 9-to-1 vote Thursday, the Georgia Board of Education approved giving schools a series of exemptions from a federal requirement that prohibits the sale of high-calorie, high-fat and high-sodium foods during fundraisers held during school hours.

The dispute had shaped up as a “bake sale battle” because calorie-laden sweets have long been staples of such fundraisers.

The board first heard testimony from opponents of the proposal to allow as many as 30 exemptions from the healthy food fundraiser policy – which could add up to a total of 90 days per school year.

The opponents gave passionate arguments against the proposed policy.

Marsi Thrash of the American Heart Association’s Georgia chapter said the exemption proposal “puts revenues over children’s health.” She noted that Georgia has a high rate of child obesity, and that obese children are more at risk of becoming obese adults. full story

Commentary: A life-or-death issue for children

On the last day of the 2014 General Assembly session, political differences blocked legislation on medical marijuana for children with seizure disorders.

Abe Hopkins

Abe Hopkins

The bill was introduced by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), who was inspired by the plight of children with intractable seizures whose condition has been helped significantly by marijuana derivatives such as cannabidiol oil.

In a new Commentary, Peake writes of the fate of Abe Hopkins, 6, who had a seizure disorder. “The Hopkins family worked to help pass the bill, and when it failed, they prayed that Abe would not have that final, fatal seizure before the next session in January 2015.’’ Peake says.

“Tragically, he did.”

Peake emphasizes the need for another legislative effort next year – and points out that a study committee on medical cannabis will be holding meetings in various locales over the next few weeks.

Here’s a link to his Commentary.

 

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at amiller@georgiahealthnews.com

 

 

 

Weight wars: Bake sale showdown set for Thursday

The battle over snack foods sold at Georgia school fundraisers will come down to a vote Thursday.

That’s when the state Board of Education will decide whether to give schools a series of exemptions from a federal requirement that prohibits the sale of high-calorie sweets and high-fat and high-sodium foods during fundraisers held during school hours.

glazed

The fundraiser rule is among federal standards required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which sought to make school foods healthier by reducing sodium and increasing whole grains and servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The American Heart Association is urging the state Board of Education to reject the proposed fundraiser exemptions. According to the School Nutrition Association, 30 states have opted not to allow the sale of unhealthy foods, such as cookies, candy and doughnuts, at on-campus fundraisers. They include several Southeastern states such as Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina.

The 30 exemptions that Georgia is proposing — worth up to three days each, or a total of 90 days — would allow the state to have “the worst, weakest policy in the nation,’’ says Marsi Thrash, government relations director for the Heart Association in Georgia.

“At AHA, we believe that prevention of cardiovascular disease can never start too early. And selling unhealthy food to kids to raise money is just wrong.”

State Superintendent John Barge, though, has a starkly different view. He has called the federal requirements on fundraisers “asinine.” full story

Figures on child deaths highlight stubborn problem

The deaths of children whose families had DFCS involvement rose to 180 in 2013 from 152 the year before, an 18 percent increase, according to a state report released Friday.

But state officials and child advocates on a panel Friday urged caution in making direct comparisons with last year’s figures.

Bobby Cagle

Bobby Cagle

Bobby Cagle, interim chief of the state Division of Family and Children Services, said the state’s ability to collect data has improved.

Melissa Carter, director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center, added, “Every state is reporting an increase” in deaths.

Most states are attributing the higher totals to better data collection, improved collaboration among agencies, better reporting on deaths, and increased interest from the community, Carter said.

She and Cagle, among others, spoke on a panel in Atlanta that focused on the report’s findings, hosted by Voices for Georgia’s Children and the Georgia Children’s Advocacy Network.

Each of the 180 deaths was of a child who had been in the custody of DFCS, or whose family had a Child Protective Services history with DFCS, within the previous five years.

In both 2012 and 2013, 14 percent of such child deaths were classified as homicides. These cases “are a major concern,’’ Cagle said. full story

Breastfeeding still too low in Georgia, report says

Georgia still lags behind the national averages on infant breastfeeding rates, a newly released CDC report card shows.

In 2011 — the latest year the data were available — 79.2 percent of newborn infants started breastfeeding nationally, the report says. The Georgia rate was 70.3 percent, slightly up from the 68.2 percent rate the year before.

Baby

Yet once again, the annual report card says that zero Georgia births in 2011 occurred at “Baby-Friendly” hospitals that promote breastfeeding. A handful of other states also had a zero mark. Nationally, the average of births at these designated facilities is 7.79 percent.

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers. For the baby, breastfeeding reduces the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, lowers infant mortality and supports healthy development of the brain and nervous system. It also lowers infants’ risk of becoming obese later in childhood.

For mothers, breastfeeding reduces the risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

“The research on the superiority of breast milk compared to formula is overwhelming and compelling from both a health and fiscal standpoint,’’ Merrilee Gober, board president of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia, told GHN in commenting about the CDC report. full story

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