There’s been an awful amount of news crossing my computer screen these days - the emphasis on awful - everything from Salmonella recalls and plant consolidations to bankruptcy rumors and layoffs.

But despite what seems to be a bevy of gloom-and-doom dispatches, the days have gotten  longer and the nights warmer. Consequently, it’s time to shake out this past winter of discontent and embrace Cubdom’s annual motto, “Hope springs eternal.”

One piece of news that prompted optimism on my part involved the recent Congressional testimony by Hank Izzo, v.p. – research and development for Mars Snackfood US.

Just the other day, Izzo testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, supporting legislation to revise school food nutrition standards, standards that haven’t been changed since the 1970s.

He called on lawmakers to back the 35-10-35 formula, which would require that snack foods sold in schools would have no more than 35% of calories from fat, 10% from saturated fat and less than 35% sugar by weight.

“An updated national school nutrition standard will make it easier for schools and food manufacturers to work together to ensure children make smart decisions about the foods they consume,” he told our politicians. “It will also provide some  peace of mind to parents, knowing that the products for sale in schools meet nutrition guidelines.”

I thoroughly applaud Izzo’s comments, as well as Mars Snackfoods’ decision to take a proactive approach to school nutrition standards and its need for revision. It’s an issue that’s been lurking about for some time now – obesity amongst U.S. children and the  relationship between snacking and a nutritious diet – and I find it refreshing that one of our own is on the bully pulpit.

I would like to embellish a bit on Izzo’s testimony, however. The 35-10-35 formula is a good planning guide, but it shouldn’t be the only tool regarding nutrition in schools. We need a national framework that encourages good eating habits while recognizing that sweets and treats do have a place in diets - yes, even amongst school children.

Sugar onto itself is not an evil ogre. And chocolate, particularly after the most recent medical research, has been rightfully recognized as having positive attributes. During this re-examination of school nutritional policies, it’s critical to have a holistic and more sophisticated approach about diet, children and snacking.

I recall as a youngster in France – yes, I’m one of those immigrants that came across on a boat – having bread with a thin piece of  dark chocolate. I’m sure many nutritionists would find that abhorrent, but that tradition still continues in many European countries.

Actually, the more easily recognizable pain au chocolates (croissants with chocolate in them) are essentially the same concept (apart from the dough being laminated and sweet), just a bit more stylized.

Is that a good or bad breakfast food? Would it meet the nutritional guidelines? Probably not, but it’s certainly better than having no breakfast at all. And is it any worse than sweetened cereal?

The confectionery industry is continuing to move forward with healthier launches of its traditional treats, everything from tooth friendly chocolate to increased fruit content in gummies and jellies, as detailed in this issue. The 35-10-35 formula is also another example of that movement.

At the same time, let’s not go crazy in force feeding nutrition at schools by eliminating such elements as taffy apples or chocolate or snack fundraising efforts. Many of you involved in fundraising can attest to the impact such misguided mandates have had on businesses.

It seems clear that inactivity on the part of many children has been the primary culprit of obesity in the United States as well as the rest of the world. I also believe that less-than-nutritious meals at home as well as bad snacking habits taught early on – I see parents bringing snacks and juices for youngsters in church; come on, it’s only an hour – are also at fault.

Good nutrition habits should begin at home whereby they can be re-emphasized at school. But let’s have some common sense when implementing school nutritional standards. Remember, a spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down.