The band was terrific and what the flag line lacked in precision they made up for in gusto. Dancing while swirling huge flags in time to the music wasn’t easy, especially the flag tossing part. That was definitely tricky, but the girls were swift at picking them up when they dropped them and got right back into the routine.
It was a big band from a big high school in the Midwest and the flag line numbered more than 30 girls. While they were graceful, it was hard not to notice that better than half of the girls had packed on more than a few extra pounds. My first thought was that it was terrific that anyone who wanted to could be part of the flag line. You didn’t have to be a 110-pound college cheerleader type to participate. Clearly these girls felt good about themselves and that’s really what matters.
But my second thought was that if these kids were overweight now at 16 with all the energy it took to dance while twirling and tossing flags, what might they look like at 40? Twirling those flags provided plenty of exercise, so I had to wonder a little bit about diet.
But the other day I ate lunch with a group of first graders at a Virginia elementary school, and the choices were grilled chicken breast on a whole wheat bun or a ham and low fat cheese wrap. French fries were baked, and only a few were offered. Carrots and tomatoes had been freshly cut. Drink choices were low fat milk, juice (not juice “drink”) and water. Dessert was one small cookie and an apple. No additional snacks were sold and none of the children complained.
Someone in that school district had decided that healthy eating was a habit that could be started at elementary school. Of course, the children sitting around me who had brought their lunches had PBJ on white bread and bags of potato chips and cookies. Some even had small cans of soft drinks and candy bars. I wish all of them could have bought their lunch.
I know that some say that it’s hard to teach kids good nutrition habits when we can’t control what they eat outside of school. We can’t control what they read or watch or play either, but that doesn’t mean we abandon all efforts to teach good habits. Because when some of these little girls join the flag line in 10 years, they won’t be so little.