Hershey sours on children's health

Why must Hershey bar progress on childhood obesity?

Why is state Sen. Stephen Hershey Jr. standing in the way of healthier food for Maryland's children ("Bill looks to put healthy drinks in kids' meals," March 12)? Senator Hershey has now stood up on the floor of the Maryland Senate to argue against two bills that would have improved the health of all public school children in Maryland. In the midst of a crisis of childhood obesity, with 26 percent of Maryland's high school students overweight or obese which will lead to costly health problems, Senator Hershey is not representing the interests of his constituents or the state.

The first bill asked all Maryland public school districts to put reusable water bottles on school supply lists. Children would have had better access to water at school so they might choose water over sugar-sweetened beverages connected with childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. And it wouldn't have cost schools a penny.

The second bill that Senator Hershey objected to would have told parents about all of the junk food being sold in school cafeterias. Unbeknownst to most parents, the school menus they receive each month fail to list the 30 to 50 items of packaged junk food (like Doritos, cookies, ice cream and Rice Krispie Treats) that children can purchase using their lunch accounts. The bill asked schools to post a list to their website or send it home once a year with students. So rather than ask our schools to spend one hour once a year to do something they should already be doing, Senator Hershey instead expects every parent to take off work to visit their child's school cafeteria to personally investigate the items being sold.

Senator Hershey should think better of the interests of Maryland, both in its future health care costs (with a hidden tax of over $700 in our health care premiums to treat type 2 diabetes), as well in the personal suffering of its residents due to lifelong health problems. Please encourage Senator Hershey to stop standing in the way of bills that would help Maryland's children.

Lindsey Parsons, Bethesda

The writer is coordinator of Healthy School Food Maryland.

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