City Council Suggests Smarter Way to Fight Obesity

NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Farley

If Mayor Bloomberg is truly interested in finding realistic ways to fight obesity in New York, City Council members believe the mayor should consider restoring the previously cut physical education classes back into the school system.

According to city data, as much as 40% of New York public school students are either overweight or even obese. This is part of the reason the mayor is so strident about reversing the trend, even suggesting the draconian (and not very effective) ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.

During the City Council members’ questioning of the New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley about this new law it was pointed out by Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia that his children do not have gym class at school.

It turns out that during a review of 31 elementary schools by the city controller’s office last year it was discovered that not even one of them gave the kids gym classes, despite the fact that it is a requirement of state law.

“If obesity is so important, why is gym being cut?” Recchia asked.

“Does every child get physical education every day? The answer is no,” Farley admitted. “Would we want more physical education? The answer is yes — but it’s up to the Department of Education.”

As usual, the problem here boils down to money, as Farley explained. He admitted that when the city’s obesity task force formulated the oversized-soda ban it did not even consider the issue of introducing exercise in the form of gym classes as a possible solution. He believes that enforcement of the soda ban will cost the city “under $1 million” annually. It is clear that reinstating gym classes would cost quite a bit more.

OK, let’s think about this for a moment. One million bucks to enforce a stupid law that won’t work other than being fuel for comedians to make fun of; versus an expensive answer which is not only healthy for our kids, now and for the long-term, will actually help solve the problem of obesity, oh, and is mandated by law.

Come on city officials. Think out of the box for a second. How about a tax on the soda to help pay for the gym classes? Or any other ideas that will actually help solve the problem and not just make new problems.


Shari has certainly been around the block. As a teacher, writer, former CEO and present day master chef, Shari can cover a human interest story with a flare and style hard to match anywhere. Born and raised in the streets, schools and institutions of Brooklyn, Shari is the epitome of Brooklyn life. Contact Shari at shari(at)