Boy Scouts: Offer Vegan Badge, Not Ban
The Boy Scouts of America banned overweight scouts from this month’s 2013 Jamboree. Their intention was to encourage the scouts to lose weight and shape up before the Jamboree—where the boys enjoy outdoor activities and learn new skills. But banning overweight kids is a mistake. They are exactly the kids who need guidance and support.
I was an Eagle Scout myself, and I remember how supportive scouting can be. But too often the organization gets the wrong end of the stick—or in this case, the fork. Instead of being banished, overweight scouts should be encouraged to come to camp and get lessons on healthful nutrition and cooking. They should be taught that the healthiest foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. They should learn that overweight comes, not from a lack of exercise, but from meaty, cheesy, sugar-laden diets. Given the chance to prepare and taste healthful foods, it could change their lives.
The potential benefits go beyond slimming down. New research from Thomas Jefferson University shows that the percentage of boys in the United States ages 8 to 17 with high blood pressure has increased from 15.8 to 19.2 percent. Girls also saw an increase. And according to a study published this month in JAMA, teens’ risk of developing hardened plaque in their arteries increases 2 to 4 percent each year they are obese. Healthier foods could prevent and reverse these problems.
It’s unfair for scout leaders to serve bacon and eggs in the mess hall and hot dogs around the campfire, and then blame scouts for being overweight. Instead they should send a clear message that a nutritious diet is part of an overall healthful lifestyle.
So let’s not ban kids who are having trouble. Instead, why not award a special merit badge to every scout who learns and practices the basics of vegan nutrition? These kids will save their own lives, and many more as well.