The State Park Diet

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New Mexican environmental groups suggest a novel way of fighting child obesity: Bus public school students to the under-visited state parks and generally force them outside. It's not clear what magical fat-fighting properties the state parks have, but it's indisputable that busing students around and training teachers to "integrate their lesson plans with existing outdoor educational opportunities like state parks" costs money. Thus, a sin tax is required: 

An alliance of more than a dozen New Mexico environmental groups will lobby again for legislative approval of a 1 percent sales tax — or "sin tax" — on new televisions and video games to fund outdoor education programs…New Mexico students continue to lag behind their peers in most academic areas, and an increasing number are struggling with obesity, according to state health and education reports.

I'm not even sure this counts as a sin tax, since proponents argue nonsensically that consumers "won't feel it too much, especially if they are educated about where that money goes," and sin taxes are typically sold as a way to discourage sinning. Rather, in this case interest groups are trying to profit from other people's entertainment choices in order to fund a dubious method of slimming down public school kids in a state with some of the highest rates of hunger and food insecurity in the country.

Via the excellent Junk Food Science, where Sandy Szwarc deftly debunks the fight-fat-with-environmental-education plan. 

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  1. Meanwhile, keep building those big-campus local schools out on the edge of sprawlville, on highway-like main roads, so that no one will ever bike or walk to them.

  2. Because forcing a bunch of fat kids to sit on a bus for a few of hours while they drive to a place where they will sit on a bench for a few hours is going to make everyone beautiful, duh.

    The bench is outside.

  3. Well, they could bus them to Camp Lejeune instead….

    alright, maggots!

  4. One of New Mexico’s state parks is “Bottomless Lakes.” I hate to imagine what sort of cardio-vascular activities the students will come up with there.

    But more prudish ones will enjoy the vending machines and the picinic shelters.

  5. Has anyone started a Scared Skinny-type program where morbidly obese people tell chunky but impressionable pre-teens they will be ass-raped at the Diabetes-related diseases rest home unless they stop eating 4000 calories a day?

  6. I guess walking to the park made too much sense.

  7. They should give everyone a Wii and a 10 lbs controller and gve prizes for the best tennis or boxing score

  8. Has anyone started a Scared Skinny-type program

    In my high school, we called them bullies.

  9. I write this as someone who loves the outdoors and bemoans the increasing disconnect between us and the natural world.

    I think that the Sierra Club idea is typical of the mindset of a certain set of liberals, who sincerely believe that if you only show people the “right” way that they will buy-in to your views. It’s consistent with the nanny-state, tax-increasing policies favored by the same set of people. In other words, BS.

    Probably the state parks are the chosen venue for this because they are free (at least to school groups) and believed by the SC to be undervisited.

    Imagine a crunchy version of WWASPS…(shudder).

    Like many liberal feel-good ideas it will probably have the opposite of the desired effect. Unfortunately, the only thing this program will do is decrease the quality of education (more bus time equals less class time) while increasing the cost. Also, the kids will probably come to hate their forced marches mandatory nature walks, and everything associated with the outdoors.

    Blech.

  10. At what point does it become more cost effective to improve your obesity numbers by performing a forced liposuction procedure on the most extreme fatties as opposed to implementing state-wide measures that effect all students?

    Think about it, just take a couple thousand of the fattest kids, stick a hose in them, suck out the blubber, and you could probably drop the average BMI by a couple of points. Even better, figure out a way to turn the blubber into bio-diesel and score some points with the Greenies.

    Win-Win-Win

  11. What?!?!?! Practically everything in New Mexico is outdoors!

    Being from New Mexico and having an Ivy League education and being a former professional athlete, I’m not sure how to feel about this idea that the kids are getting dumb and fat…maybe the children of New Mexico ought to move to Virginia like I did.

    Of course, these are New Mexicans who are coming up with the idea in the first place…..

  12. Meanwhile, keep building those big-campus local schools out on the edge of sprawlville, on highway-like main roads, so that no one will ever bike or walk to them.

    I went to one of those. A brisk walk home (3.5 miles) after extracurricular activities. So? Are students today too stupid or fragile to walk alongside a travelled highway, in the darkness of winter even? Or cut through the park like I did?
    No, I think the problem lies elsewhere. I doubt a trip to the park monthly, weekly even, is the solution either. Maybe parenting has something to do with it. Just guessing.

  13. Has anyone started a Scared Skinny-type program where morbidly obese people tell chunky but impressionable pre-teens they will be ass-raped at the Diabetes-related diseases rest home unless they stop eating 4000 calories a day?

    Don’t you know that I WILL RAPE YOU?

  14. I LOVE fat kids. They pop when you cook them!

  15. Obese kids need education as to why obesity is harmful to them, smarter parents, better food, more exercise, and sometimes better genes. All but one of those is possible (arguably all but two are possible), and none are the responsibility of the state.

    Is there a group looking out for me? I’m a healthy, thin person who is basically a minority in this country. I want someone to fight for me to not have to support the weight problems of others. Where’s my liberal?!

  16. J sub D,

    Surely you noticed that even in your day, most kids were not walking 3.5 miles to and from school.

    It’s nice you had a park to cut through, though.

  17. If we got rid of all the fat kids then who would we laugh at on youtube?

  18. Tonio:
    …liberals, who sincerely believe that if you only show people the “right” way that they will buy-in to your views.

    I agree, though I don;t think this view is particularly limited to liberals.

  19. This should definitely work, now that Congress is handing out $600 like candy… I am sure some of that money will go toward new X-boxes and Wiis.

    BTW: I am particularly bitter because people who pay NO taxes are eligible for a check, but I am not… I have decided I am going to send photocopies of the bill to politicians asking for money…

  20. When Eugenics lost its lustre what other choice did they have? Inferior beings must be dealt with one way or another, right?

  21. Meanwhile, keep building those big-campus local schools out on the edge of sprawlville, on highway-like main roads, so that no one will ever bike or walk to them.

    I think joe’s on to something here. Let’s start requiring that schools be built on the edge of a cliff, and you must scale the cliff to get to class. And require a harness and rock-climbing shoes as part of the school supplies, of course. Then make them rappel down the cliff when they go home.

    Fire drills should be quite interesting to watch.

  22. Huh. Preview, eh?

  23. apparently (according to that linked blog) obesity is much less of a problem in NM than the opposite problem:

    “The unsoundness of this childhood obesity initiative is even more disturbing in that it’s targeting New Mexico, a poor state with one of the lowest rates of childhood obesity in the nation. Instead, according to the New Mexico State Center for Health Statistics, Bureau of Vital Records, 25.9% of children live at or below the poverty level and it leads the nation in food insecurity and hunger.”

    a cumulative effect of reading reason often, and having these state-power-sprawl stories and police-state stories and american-empire stories and liberal lifestyle-encouragement stories piled on one on top of the other, is a mild despair.

  24. Or they could reinstitute the P.E. classes they cut so the school could pray to the Only God As They Know It, which is standardized test scores. Nahhhhh….

    “Thanks to NCLB, Not only am I a lard ass, but I have a lesser level of education than my parents did. Thanks NCLB!”

  25. Meanwhile, keep building those big-campus local schools out on the edge of sprawlville, on highway-like main roads, so that no one will ever bike or walk to them.

    Or we could force them to bike and walk there anyway. Dodging SUVs is great cardio. If some don’t make it we can chalk it up to thinning the herd.

  26. There’s some serious synergy between sage’s cliff proposal and PC’s idea.

    Harnesses are an unnecessary extravegance.

  27. All kidding aside, this is probably a good thing. Who wants to look at a behemoth anyway?

  28. Not at all, joe. That extra weight will strengthen your biceps and lats.

  29. Surely you noticed that even in your day, most kids were not walking 3.5 miles to and from school.

    You’ll note i said ater extra curricular activities. Yeah there was a bus to take to and fro. So? If they lived 1/2 mile away and walked would that really make a difference in obesity rates? Yeah, it was nice walking through the park at night. That’s not snark. It was where I discovered that Venus will cast a shadow.

  30. Meanwhile, keep building those big-campus local schools out on the edge of sprawlville, on highway-like main roads, so that no one will ever bike or walk to them.

    Yeah, I’ve seen these. Didn’t attend one, but I’ve seen-em while driving though the south, mostly.

    I do not expect this ploy to work. I do not think it is necessary. I would want to send my child to a school that had something of a PE class that actually… taught PE. If it didn’t, I would teach them myself. But my goodness, do not send them to a park with the idea that it will help them physically… send them to a park with the idea that it will educate them about nature.

  31. It was where I discovered that Venus will cast a shadow.

    J sub,

    Is that a poetic way of saying you got laid in the park?

    Was it Bottomless Lakes park?

  32. proponents argue […] that consumers “won’t feel it too much, especially if they are educated about where that money goes”

    That’s what you’re getting at, Tonio. My favorite part about the whole they-won’t-mind-losing-their-moneys thing is how taxpayers simply need to be “educated” about where the taxes go. Well, I think that the fact that we know how government money is used is precisely the reason it bothers us so much.

  33. We could make all the cafeteria doors really small…

  34. Meanwhile, keep building those big-campus local schools out on the edge of sprawlville, on highway-like main roads, so that no one will ever bike or walk to them.

    I imagine the land is cheaper out there, for one thing. There may also be some economies of scale or even (gasp) educational benefits to big campuses. If you’ve got 2,000 kids under one roof, you might be able to get the critical mass for lots of classes and activities that you couldn’t get in a smaller school.

    And, once you have a big campus, you’d better put it on a road that can handle the traffic.

  35. Was it Bottomless Lakes park?

    Wouldn’t it be in Crotchless P…
    I’m not going to finish that thought 🙂

  36. Since most schools have a track behind them, we could just push the kids outside once a day and make them all walk 8 laps around the track.

    A 2 mile walk once a day should do the trick.

  37. But my goodness, do not send them to a park with the idea that it will help them physically… send them to a park with the idea that it will educate them about nature.

    What a revolutionary idea, Reinmoose! We could make it an enjoyable educational part of the elementary science curriculum. Let’s call them park? No, meadow? No, I’ve got it! Field trips. Let’s call them field trips. You could even do them in the fall and spring when the weather is nice. Brilliant idea there, Reinmoose!

  38. Hey,
    I didn’t say it was rocket science.

  39. If they lived 1/2 mile away and walked would that really make a difference in obesity rates?

    Probably.

    [Of course all of my comments on this subject have the unwritten amendment: “What we really should do is have a system of competing private schools so parents could decide how much PE they want blah blah blah blah.”]

  40. Childhood obesity can be solved by four simple letters: PTFD

    Put
    The
    Fork
    Down

    Learn it. Know it. Live it.

  41. Since most schools have a track behind them, we could just push the kids outside once a day and make them all walk 8 laps around the track.

    A 2 mile walk once a day should do the trick.

    OOh OOh! And could we make them sing patriotic songs the whole time?! That would perfect!

  42. Reinmoose, we’re going to need to make sure that they don’t wander off, we could give them some sort of bright colored uniform to wear… like an orange jumpsuit!

    And workout equipment in every classroom!

  43. To hell with these half measures. We can learn from the past. Sparta didn’t have an obesity problem. Let’s adopt their theories on education.

  44. “It was where I discovered that Venus will cast a shadow.”

    The Adam’s apples of trannies usually cast shadows, J Sub, but you were young. How could you know?

  45. There may also be some economies of scale or even (gasp) educational benefits to big campuses. If you’ve got 2,000 kids under one roof, . . . .

    . . . it’s a lot easier to build a state championship caliber football team.

  46. Abdul | January 24, 2008, 3:31pm | #

    It was where I discovered that Venus will cast a shadow.

    J sub,

    Is that a poetic way of saying you got laid in the park?

    It would be nice to think so, but I think this is his nerdy side showing through.

    Under very specific conditions – no moon, after end of twilight, no competing light sources, and maximum brightness – the planet Venus provide enough light to produce shadows observable by someone with good vision.

  47. Under very specific conditions – no moon, after end of twilight, no competing light sources, and maximum brightness – the planet Venus provide enough light to produce shadows observable by someone with good vision.

    It was hotter the way J sub said it.

  48. Well, JsubD does want to re-introduce some classical Greek education traditions. Those Spartans and their strong oily bodies! 😉

  49. RC,

    I did a paper on school sprawl while I was in school, and it’s not being driven by the actual economics of building or operating a school. For one thing, transportation costs eat up a huge % of a lot of suburban areas’ budgets, and building that way both guarantees that every kid will need to be bussed AND increase the length of the rides.

    No, the two biggest drivers were 1) standards that make their way into school boards’ and education departments policies that are based on suburbanist aesthetics rather than solid educational data and 2) especially in the sunbelt, developers who “donate” a piece of land out beyond the developed ring, so that the county will bring roads and infrastructure through their land.

  50. I attended those remote suburban schools. Walked to both elementary and high school for 10 years (I bought a car in 10th grade). About 2 miles to either of them. My brother bought the house we grew up in and his kids are now bused to those same two schools. And they look it. All but the youngest – fat bastards all. I say – get rid of the buses and figure out your own way to the school. If you manage it for 12 years you graduate regardless of your grades.

  51. Libercosmotarian Persian messenger: This plan to ship your fat, uneducated students to state parks for forced marches and birdwatching financed by taxing video games is madness.

    New Mexican: No, this is SPARTAAAAAAA!

  52. lol @ Abdul

  53. tijjer — you must be the first person I’ve heard of who uses a fork to eat Twinkies.

  54. Aresen is right. That’s my inner nerd posting about Venus.

  55. Another reason not to have multiple smaller schools is to make sure immigrant neighborhoods’ students are lumped in with everyone else, to avoid having a school in the district with failing-level test scores.

  56. Thanks, Ventifact, I hadn’t even considered that side of things. You’re totally right.

    Aresen: Your way was hotter. Sorry J sub D.

  57. Bussing poor English speakers in and then forgetting them is probably cheaper and certainly easier than just imparting proficiency…

  58. Aresen is right. That’s my inner nerd posting about Venus.

    Aresen may be right, but my interpretion makes a better haiku:

    In the moonless park
    Venus cast a long shadow
    On Bottomless lakes.

  59. This won’t pass in New Mexico – they have one of those “libertarian-leaning” Democrats as governor, right?

    One reason kids never walk to school or even play outside anymore is that their parents have been convinced that the outside world is full of predators (the ones who don’t cruise MySpace 24/7). If they are bussed to the parks, expect a demand by some group or another that the parks be swept in advance of predators, animals that might bite (rabid or otherwise), thorns, poison ivy, and allergens.

  60. The way I should have put it:

    After dark, at maximum elongation, Venus’s light probes the shadows.

    (Let’s not start another haiku thread.)

  61. Check it out:

    2 Twinkies : 300 Calories taken in

    2 miles at 4 mph at 200 lbs body weight: 228 Calories burned

    So Vent, my Mr. Pitt eating habits aside, I’m not getting slim by walking through the cacti to my school.

    I really have to PTFD if I’m going to lose weight.

  62. I live in Albuquerque, and have lived all over the state. NM has one of the highest percentages of public land in the U.S. This state is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

    Here in Albuquerque, you really can’t live more than a 15-20 min drive from either the designated Open Space and National forest of the Sandia mountains on the East, and the Open Space Petroglyphs Nat’l Monument on the West side of the rift valley. These are really large open areas with plenty of hiking, biking, and horse trails. University students ride city busses for free, and I believe APS students do as well. Access does not seem to be a problem.

    Not to mention that ABQ has been ranked as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the country. We also have plenty of parks.

    If you live anywhere else in the state, you’re virtually surrounded by National Forest, National Grasslands, and National Wilderness areas, with, obviously, some exceptions.

    The environmentalist here don’t give a crap about obesity, they want more people to fall in love with wilderness and vote for even more public land so there’ll be even less chance they run into another human being on their next backpacking trip.

    I do love the public land here though. My hypocrisy knows no bounds. Luckily for me, my own hypocrisy doesn’t bother me nearly as much as everyone else’s.

  63. tijjer — I was just making a lame joke. The proverbial schoolyard fatty loves Twinkies, right?

    But I will mention that your calculations are meaningless. You have to evaluate overall calorie input against overall calorie use for a person. If a fatty gets that way by eating somewhere in the range of 200 more calories per day than he burns per day on average (a reasonable amount if you multiply it out over a couple years) avoiding Twinkies could actually help.

  64. Let’s not start another haiku thread.

    I thought we agreed to make it an annual thing. Coming up in a couple of months.

  65. “The unsoundness of this childhood obesity initiative is even more disturbing in that it’s targeting New Mexico, a poor state with one of the lowest rates of childhood obesity in the nation. Instead, according to the New Mexico State Center for Health Statistics, Bureau of Vital Records, 25.9% of children live at or below the poverty level and it leads the nation in food insecurity and hunger.”

    They missed the obvious liberal solution: tax the fat kids lunches, and redistribute them to the hungry kids. Pizza would have a top marginal rate of about 45%, ham sandwiches 33%, turkey sandwiches, & veggies in cheese sauce about 15%. Salads would be tax “subsidized” for fatties to encourage them to eat salads.

  66. University students ride city busses for free, and I believe APS students do as well.

    Really? I grew up in Albuquerque. On those days that it was so cold I’d rather avoid the mile long walk to middle school, I had to cough up almost the price of two candy bars to ride the city bus.

    Hmmm. Two candy bars vs. walking one mile. Maybe riding the bus is healthier…

  67. Meanwhile, keep building those big-campus local schools out on the edge of sprawlville, on highway-like main roads, so that no one will ever bike or walk to them.

    The sprawlville area where they have room for tracks, football fields, tennis courts, etc?

    I went to one of those highschools. And often walked or biked the 3-4 miles to it. The school at that time was pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.

    Fast forward a few decades. The school is now located, literally, next to a huge shopping mall complex. Lots of the kids spend their time after school hangin’ at the mall, then taking the bus home, or being picked up by their parents.

    Now the local school district is closing the high school. The land is way too valuable. They’re selling it to developers and moving the school several miles away– out in the middle of nowhere– where, again, they can have tracks, football fields, tennis courts, etc.

  68. It’s too bad we can’t necessarily attribute that cycle to district administrators’ foresight in terms of real estate value and development, eh? That would be like making a rational and incentivized investment decision. (Maybe I judge too harshly and without basis?)

  69. it’s a lot easier to build a state championship caliber football team.

    Not really, since schools are organized into divisions by size.

    Another reason not to have multiple smaller schools is to make sure immigrant neighborhoods’ students are lumped in with everyone else,

    Try this: Its much harder to keep a politically acceptable racial balance in a smaller school with a smaller catchment area. The problem (from a “civil rights” perspective) with neighborhood schools is that they tend to be relatively homogenous, and we all know that’s a Bad Thing.

  70. I could (easily) be wrong, but it seems like schools suffer more harsh repercussions by failing to meet standardized standards [sic] than by ending up predominated [sic] by a particular ethnicity. Now, if there were a situation in which one town essentially had a Latino school and a white school, and the Latino students performed much worse than the white students, that might get a lot of negative attention, but that’s still a situation hanging on the point I made about it being more convenient to lump immigrants in and then not bother educating them.

  71. What we have here is rent seeking by recreational enthusiasts masquerading as environmentalists who want to get more money from the tax payers to improve their recreational facilities.

    Childhood obesity is just their way of getting gullible folks to vote to spend taxpayer money.

  72. or “sin tax” – on new televisions and video games

    Many of the video games for Nintendo’s WII require exercise. Not as much as riding a bicycle up a steep hill, but exercise none the less.

  73. They should give everyone a Wii and a 10 lbs controller and gve prizes for the best tennis or boxing score

    Wii Mii,

    Sorry I didn’t see your post at first.

    This is actually a very good idea. The problem with treadmill style exercise equipment is that it is boooring.

    If you, Mii, and someone with money could work this out. Wii’d get rich.

  74. Just another lurker,

    First, you don’t need 30-50 acres for that.

    Second, regardless of the size, you don’t need to put a major institutional use that people from throughout an area need to access way out on the edge, rather than in the center.

    Third, you don’t need to build it in a fashion that makes it inaccessible to anyone not in a car or bus.

    High schools, when the students are old enough to stand a chance of getting their on their own, aren’t as bad as building elementary or middle schools that way.

    Oh, and “next to a shopping mall” means, what? A half mile from the school doors to the main road, a half mile down the main road, and a half mile to the doors of the mall?

    The problem (from a “civil rights” perspective) with neighborhood schools is that they tend to be relatively homogenous, and we all know that’s a Bad Thing. Easily solved by allowing people in different neighborhoods to pick from more than one school.

  75. Second, regardless of the size, you don’t need to put a major institutional use that people from throughout an area need to access way out on the edge, rather than in the center.

    What about the people who are living at the ‘center’? It is the ‘center’ for reason. Consider that institutional developers might prefer to be in the ‘center’ but shy away from persuing this goal when taking into consideration the political problems, scheduling delays, and added cost of doing so.

  76. EE,

    OK, replace it with “more centrally-located.”

    Obviously, it will be short-term cheaper to just take one guy’s unbuilt parcel, but if the outcome is the distant campus inaccessible to the community, you get higher transportation costs for the entire life of the school.

    In growing cities, it may well be true that the distant site will become surrounded with new growth, so I’m arguing that it is wrong in all cases. But in such a situation, it would be wiser to build the school and the grounds in a way that they will be accessible by that surrounding growth. This also requires that the growth itself be laid out to make it possible to get to the school – well-connected roads, avoid highway-like streets, sidewalks and bike paths, and densities that will put at least some of the new homes in walking or biking distance.

  77. Well joe, I’m not sure exactly what you’re arguing with me about here– I’m just giving you a real world example. But…

    First, you don’t need 30-50 acres for that.

    I didn’t mention any size. But apparently the school district disagrees with you:
    “It’s a smart move to maintain and replace our schools on the right timeline by supporting a $140 million Construction Bond. This funding will allow the District to relocate Lynnwood High School to a 40 acre site on the North Road, rebuild Meadowdale Middle School at its current site and provide several small works projects throughout the district.”

    Third, you don’t need to build it in a fashion that makes it inaccessible to anyone not in a car or bus.

    They’re not. I know the area they’re moving it to; in fact, most of it’s surrounded by nuclear family homes (you know, the kind that families with kids live in). You could walk or ride a bike. Of course, the many students that live several miles away might not be doing that much (unless they want to burn lots of calories off their fat kids).

    Oh, and “next to a shopping mall” means, what? A half mile from the school doors to the main road, a half mile down the main road, and a half mile to the doors of the mall?

    You seem to doubt what I say about the school’s location. Look here, it will give you some idea:
    How close is the school to the mall?

    Incidently, ALL the streets around the school are also taken up with booming retail businesses– not just the big Mall box.

    The real estate is just too valuable now.

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