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Crackdown on junk food, easy access to chocolate and riders earn a well-done

It’s great that frozen yogurt chains are setting up shop in Western New York, giving us another dessert option for hot summer days. But the yogurt folks shouldn’t hit too hard on the claim that it’s a healthy alternative to ice cream.

While frozen yogurt may be better for you than an equal amount of premium ice cream, the shops make it as easy as possible to turn a low-fat treat into a high-calorie monster. First, you get a generous bowl to encourage taking plenty. Then the dozens of toppings tilt heavily to broken candy bars and other chocolate delights. Worst of all, from a calorie standpoint, it’s all serve-it-yourself, and who doesn’t add a few extra Reese’s Pieces or an extra-big splat of chocolate sauce?

Of course, there are some fruit choices, if you need to convince yourself that you’ve created a healthy dessert.

Speaking of calories, it’s about time someone with some say in the matter is finally stepping up to wean school kids off the junk that for too long has passed for food.

That someone is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and before anyone starts bellowing about the nanny state intruding on our freedom to eat what we want, there are some critical factors to consider.

Childhood obesity remains a crisis. These youngsters are on a path that leads to lifelong illness, including diabetes and heart disease. Premature death looms as a real threat for these children. In addition, it is already more difficult for the U.S. military to attract recruits who can pass the health test to serve. That makes obesity a national security issue.

It is a deadly serious issue. In response, the Agriculture Department is banning fatty, sugary and salty snacks from school vending machines. Healthier snacks will still be available, and while they may not be perfect either – diet sodas will be allowed, but they can trigger a craving for other sugars – it’s an improvement.

We don’t allow kids to poison themselves with cigarettes; we shouldn’t encourage them to do it with junk food, either.

A long round of applause is due to the more than 8,000 riders, 2,000 volunteers and masses of supporters who made the 18th annual Ride for Roswell last Saturday a success. The cyclists raised more than $3.8 million for cancer research and patient care programs at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

No matter how fast or how slow, sidesaddle or sidelines, everyone who participated had the same goal in mind: beating cancer. Bravo to all.