This should be the most obvious statement in the world, “We feed our kids crap”. All of us grew up on it and all of us hated having to force it down our throats every day at lunch time. But the strangest thing is that we’ve all managed to forget about it. Or maybe it was so “normal” that it never registered as anything out of the ordinary. If you grew up in a place like I did, there was never any talk about health or fitness. People (for the most part) just didn’t worry about what they ate…until it became a problem. But the problem is that the health issues we face as adults start much earlier in life and bad habits have a way of sticking.
It’s no secret that Americans are fat, in fact we’re internationally known for it. It’s an issue that many people face with poor results, baffled as they scarf down processed meat and refined corn syrup. Now we are seeing it in our children as more and more of them grow wider and wider. It’s gotten so bad that American children are now developing type 2 diabetes; a disease once thought to only occur in adults.
I guess you can trace a lot of this back to farm policy, specifically the corn subsidy. Currently the US government subsidizes corn production. Why? They do it because corn can be made into just about anything and by subsidizing it you can effectively lower the price on a lot of food products. The problem of course, is that corn has virtually no nutrients; it’s merely an “empty carbohydrate”. But with its low prices, it’s great “filler” for almost every processed food item you can think of. If you don’t believe me, just check the labels on the foods you buy. Look for the words “corn syrup”.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the school system, always low on supplies, space, and teachers salaries. The public school system in particular is a perfect candidate for inexpensive food products. So as a result we see schools all over the country serving up tons of chemically processed “food” to their students. Not only does it make them overweight now, it will inevitably raise our health care costs in the future.
But some schools manage to serve healthy food, why not all of them? Well, really it comes down to business. Most schools, public and private, treat their lunch system as a retail business, not part of an all-inclusive system. Therefore the students are treated as customers, and the customer in this case is demanding soda, chips, and chili cheese fries (at the lowest price). The schools (or catering companies) get paid on the number of meals they sell and kids rarely choose carrots over cookies.
So, to fix this problem we need to push for it. Either parents need to demand healthy options or we need an effective government policy in place to regulate what gets served. Another option might be restructuring the school food system in general, making the school cafeteria an all-inclusive part of the educational institution and taking it out of the retail environment. But again, it will almost surely fall back on how many “dolla bills” you want to throw at the cause (public or private). Good tasting, healthy food typically costs more than chemically processed (subsidized) corn products.
In the midst of nation wide budget shortages it’s a catch 22. Either we pay now, or we pay later. The question is, do we want it to be for the cost of healthy food now or steeper health care bills down the line? Well, at least nobody is thinking about making ketchup a “vegetable” again.
My Mother on the Topic – “And just so you know, I made you eat very healthy when you were in grade school. It’s when you got to junior high that your diet changed, and that was all your doing. In grade school you took school lunch just in 1st grade. After that you either came home for lunch or took your lunch. You hated the school lunches!”