I try to keep this blog on the light side, but there’s a lot of discussion going on as to how involved our government should be in what we feed our children. It’s a subject that I care about, a lot. Unfortunately, we’re approaching crisis mode as the numbers for childhood obesity and diabetes continue to rise. It’s time someone steps up and takes action. But who? Should government or parents be responsible for feeding our children? At this point, I think both. The very sad reality is that many parents don’t even understand what is and isn’t healthy. It’s not their fault, because nutrition has unfortunately become increasingly confusing. Changing food pyramids, the good or bad nutrient of the month, food manufacturers putting a spin on how healthy or unhealthy their product may be, government that’s influenced by food lobbyists, the list goes on. We are constantly being told a different story.
I believe that government setting guidelines for healthy school lunches is a good start (except for the pizza as a vegetable thing, unless of course there are vegetables on the pizza…). Every once in awhile, Ben asks me if he can get school lunch. I concede, because it’s a nice break from making his lunch everyday. But I literally cringe as he makes his selections. Fried food, white bread, very few fresh fruit and veggie choices. I don’t worry too much because he doesn’t eat these lunches everyday and I know overall, he’s getting a balanced diet. Other kids are not so lucky.
There are also some grass roots programs happening in the schools, some celebrity chefs getting involved. It’s a great start, but how many of these programs are being monitored by Registered Dietitians to be sure that the recipes and messages truly are healthy?
I was involved in a program that taught children, through The Boys and Girls Club, about nutrition and how to cook healthy recipes. I had the opportunity to assist in some of the classes. It was encouraging, enlightening and extremely gratifying to see how much these kids loved cooking, loved the healthy recipes and couldn’t wait to take the recipes home and ask their parents to buy the ingredients so they could make the recipes for them.
First comes awareness, then concern, now it’s time to act. A long term solution is needed. I’ve seen a few articles lately that talk about bringing home economics back to the schools. For a long time I’ve thought just that. Obviously we need to update the name to something more relevant, like life skills, family science or home technology. The program should incorporate cooking skills and nutrition, but it can go even further. It can include teaching about supermarkets and farmer’s market’s; how to buy on sale and in season; how to grow you’re own veggies; how to read and understand food labels, and so on. As parents, yes it’s our job to teach our children, but this could be an instance where children teach their parents.
I’m not suggesting that everyone should eat healthy all of the time. And I do think eating healthy isn’t as hard or depriving as some people think it is. Strategies that have been used in the past, such as banning bake sales and cupcakes for birthday celebrations, aren’t the solution. It’s about everything in moderation, about making the right choices. We need to find a way to provide everyone with information and education that will allow them to make smart choices when it comes to what they’re putting in their bodies.