Just look at Don Brash before blaming junk food for the rising obesity levels among today’s school kids

Billy Bunter was a rare exception when Alf went to Greyfriars.

Dunno if similar work has been done in NZ, but Alf was cheered to learn that someone has studied the trend towards driving kids to school and sparing them the effort of getting there the hard way.

Back in Alf’s schooldays we walked to school or we got there on a bike.

Bloody good exercise. And this – he reckons – explains at least partly why the brats who are driven to school by molly-coddling parents are becoming a generation of tubbies.

He is fortified in this thinking after stumbling on the work of an American researcher who has looked into this and reported her findings in a paper headed Active Transportation to School: Trends Among U.S. Schoolchildren, 1969–2001

The study was undertaken by a Noreen C. McDonald, from the University of North Carolina, who – it should be spelled out – is not related to Ronald McDonald or anyone else behind the McDonalds restaurant chain.

She says rising rates of overweight children have focused attention on walking and biking to school as a means to increase children’s physical activity levels.

Despite this attention, there has been little documentation of trends in school travel over the past 30 years or analysis of what has caused the changes in mode choice for school trips.

She analyzed data from the 1969, 1977, 1983, 1990, 1995, and 2001 National Personal Transportation Survey conducted by the US Department of Transportation to document the proportion of students actively commuting to school in aggregate and by subgroups and analyse the relative influence of trip, child, and household characteristics across survey years.

Maybe things have changed since then, of course. All analyses were done in 2006. But if things have changed it’s a fair bet they have changed in favour of even more chauffeur-driven journeys to school and back.

The National Personal Transportation Survey data showed that in 1969, 40.7% of students walked or biked to school; by 2001, that proportion was 12.9%.

But distance to school has increased over time and may account for half of the decline in active transportation to school.

It also has the strongest influence on the decision to walk or bike across survey years.

McDonald concluded –

Declining rates of active transportation among school travelers represents a worrisome loss of physical activity. Policymakers should continue to support programs designed to encourage children to walk to school such as Safe Routes to School and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s KidsWalk. In addition, officials need to design policies that encourage schools to be placed within neighborhoods to ensure that the distance to school is not beyond an acceptable walking distance.

Alf will be drawing this to the attention of Sue Kedgley, who has a snitch against fast-food outlets like McDonalds and Kentucky Fried.

She should take a look at Don Brash, who is in pretty good nick for a bloke who tucks in regularly to junk food.

I’m also a junk-food addict. If I’m in a hurry, it’s Burger King or McDonald’s. Occasionally KFC. Or Subway – if I’m feeling very adventurous, I eat Subway.

It’s very quick, very convenient. And actually I enjoy it. All of them are enjoyable. I’m catholic in my tastes. I don’t want to prejudice my prospects at the others, but I actually like the Burger King barbecue bacon burger.

Kedgley launched a nationwide petition and School Food campaign a year or so ago to try to persuade the Government to reinstate the Nutritional Guidelines requiring schools to sell healthy food in school canteens, which it dropped earlier this year.

It’s a pity she didn’t apply some of her energy into getting school kids walking and biking to school.

And it’s time the food fascists who are forever fulminating against finger-lickin’good Kentucky fries, or burgers, pies and fish and chips, broadened their horizons to look for other culprits behind the obesity epidemic.

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