Thursday, October 04, 2007

What are the kids eating?

I'm sure we've all heard about the pop machines in schools debate. A new study from Centre for Science in the Public Interest (PDF of the press release and CBC report) indicates that nutritional quality of food served in schools is lacking. I don't know what they serve but I never wanted to eat the stuff they served when I was in school. They made fast food look good.

I understand that since children spend most of their day at school they have to eat. However, don't parents provide lunches and snacks to take to school? If they give their children money don't they tell them to stay away from fast food and cigarettes? Doesn't phys-ed class exist anymore? Many studies and statistics point to a looming health crisis in children and dramatic increases in obesity but the message does not appear to be getting through.

If, as a community, people decide schools are providing food with education then they need to be involved in making the healthy choices and pay for it. Parents will need to either provide healthy food for their children to consume during the day or develop a nutritional menu that is developed in conjunction with classroom nutrition education.

I find the CSPI does great work and have been pleased with the attention their reports bring to issues. Unfortunately, we need them to make people aware that a pop machine in every hallway to wash down the fries and gravy from the cafeteria might be bad for children. There is not an information shortage in North America and people have no excuse for not knowing.


Ainsley Ruth said...

However, don't parents provide lunches and snacks to take to school? If they give their children money don't they tell them to stay away from fast food and cigarettes? Doesn't phys-ed class exist anymore?
uhh. not necessarily. first of all you're assuming that the parents are living at a income level that allows them to either provide food for their children or send them to school w/ money. while income level is no guarantee for healthy eating habbits, one would assume that the higher the income level the better off their nutrition is at home and therefore the better able the child is able to make quality nutrition choices at school.
I work in a low-income school serving a black and latino population that is 75%+ free/reduced lunch. So these students don't, by-and-large, eat well at home. They eat what their parents can afford...which is a lot of processed foods. At school most of my students depend on school lunch and that is not necessarily a nutricious lunch. the USDA has a nice relationship built w/ the USDE to provide farmers w/ a subsidized outlet for their crops. The food is processed, high in starch, high in fat, high in salt, high in sugar. And we wonder why our students are having a problem w/ obesity and eventually diabetes, heart disease, etc.
The question is why is our government subsidizing a lunch program that offers few healthy choices. What healthy choices are avaiable (i.e. raw fruit or veggies) is often skipped or thrown away b/c there are other less-healthy, more attractive alternatives.
Kids like sugar/salt. My mom is a nurse, my dad has worked in the medical field his entire career. We ate very healthy most of the time at home, but I still liked junk food and given the choice would choose it over veggies. We can't expect kids to make good decisions (by and large...i'm sure there are some awesome kids out there that would choose carrot sticks over french fries). We need to give them better food. We can learn a lot from health education failures w/ sex and drugs. Don't do do drugs sometimes. Don't have have sex sometimes. Don't eat junk can give them the data about health issues, but they're still going to choose junk food to eat b/c they like it and they are not developed enough to make these decisions while considering long-term effects on health.

FeButterfly said...

You make several valid points and they are not without merit. I know that it is quite expensive to make healthy food choices as my food bill is about 75% of my mortgage payment. As a family, we have made the choice to eat healthy over other ways to spend our money. Also, school meal programs, to my knowledge, have been implemented to help kids who lack the resources because nutrition and academic performance are linked. In my opinion the best way to break the cycle of poverty is through education which is linked to nutrition and back again to income which is derived from education. Hope you are still following me but I don't know how else to explain it. I think people need to take some personal responsibility for health and nutrition and in preparing their children for the world.

As for why the USDA has provided a subsidized outlet for crops I can't say for sure. The continuing support for corn based ethanol, despite evidence that it doesn't help our energy situation, is probably a good indicator of the thought process. "Follow the money" is probably a good start. If you have not read the book Fast Food Nation I suggest you do. It gives a lot of information on fast food impacts on the economy and society and if I remember correctly it goes into the USDA/USDE school lunch programs.

Thanks for commenting and I hope to see your comments again.