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Increasing wellness in Howard County schools [Letter]

As a pediatrician in Howard County and the mother of four children in the county schools, I am invested in the revision of the schools' wellness policy ("Changes to Howard's school wellness policy largely applauded," March 14).

In my office and home I recommend a diet heavy on vegetables with "treats" only rarely.

The need for increased physical activity time and better nutrition for all Howard County children is real. The pressures of fundraising are also important. I am encouraged by the increase in recess time in elementary schools, and by a strong physical fitness program in middle schools.

Some very good suggestions have been offered regarding lunches, and some positive changes have already been made. The vending machines in high schools have reasonably healthy choices now.

Some contention remains over the sale of non-Institute of Medicine-approved foods for fundraising and celebrations. Instead of banning these completely, or allowing them without restriction, why not find creative compromises?

Maryland health care advocate Vincent DeMarco of Maryland Health Care for All has succeeded in decreasing teen smoking rates simply by raising the cost of cigarettes. Why not consider allowing non-IOM approved foods at some celebrations or at weekly or monthly intervals for "a la carte," but at increased prices?

This might allow for increased profit and discourage the purchase of these items. It's not an ideal solution, but it is the kind of creative thinking required to address this complex problem.

Zaneb K. Beams, Ellicott City

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