Another day has passed that I am so incredibly grateful that I am able to homeschool my daughter.
In Naples, Florida, Lilly Grasso came home with a letter addressed to her mother, from her middle school. The letter stated that the eleven year old's BMI (Body Mass Index) was high and that she was 'at risk for being obese'. It directed her to their website, which upon signing in, stated clearly that "Lilly is overweight".
Is there any single phrase that will incite the ire and anguish of a woman, more than those three words, "you are fat"??
Young Lilly is an avid volleyball player - by all accounts, a star on her team. She is 5'3" tall, and weighs - get this - a whopping 124 pounds. That's a size 4, ladies.
When children grow up in a society where thinness is prized, eating disorders are probable and accepted and obesity is a national epidemic, answers are not easy. Navigating the waters is a challenge for anyone - parents included. But did the Collier County Health Department overstep in this case? Public Information Officer Deb Millsap doesn't think so.
"“We do not want kids to have self-esteem issues,” said Millsap. “Right on [the] letter it says sports may impact the results.”
Florida is one of 21 states that require BMI screenings, in addition to vision, hearing and scoliosis. The screenings are done in kindergarten, first, third and sixth grades.
Here's where I take issue: if the school is concerned about the predominance of obesity in it's county, then it should set an example by revamping their school lunch programs and freely educating students and parents on the value of nutrition - in a cost effective and time saving capacity. Provide free classes on the advantages of balancing life and foods with exercise and movement. Engage, don't alienate. When you can show that you are doing all you can internally, then you will have the respect and involvement of families at home - instead of finger-pointing and defensive anger. Look at the child's overall health and don't reduce a child - any child, male or female - to mere numbers.
Just as we perceive a well-rounded student as one who has experienced various aspects of life - public and private, community and familial - we need to evaluate the whole child as not simply a numeric value. Lilly is more than a '124' or a '22' or even a '4'. She is more than an '11'. She is an active, seemingly happy young girl. She goes to school, she plays sports, she has a mom who loves her. In all probability she has a doctor who keeps an eye and an ear tuned to her at this age.
So, Florida's Collier County Public Health Department, here is my letter home to you:
"You are risk of failing to provide not only adequate nutrition, in addition you are failing to provide necessary education to the children and families of your county."
Collier County needs a complete revamp of your educational goals and outreach services, in conjunction with the public school systems. Put your money (and energies) where your mouth and keyboard are located.
You could speak with Miami-Dade County which initiated a Farm to School Program in 2011. Also - I'm quite sure that if you spoke with University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension, they would be more than pleased to assist you in this endeavor (especially since they ave been working on a program with Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties already. Colorado has an excellent Farm-To-Table program they have implemented very successfully in their school systems.
Let's work together, as a nation, to educate each other by providing not only replete knowledge and thorough understanding, but opportunity and cohesive efforts - and not by labeling young children. I think you will find that most parents want the best for their children, and will work with you to achieve that goal.