Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Taliban Approves of Your Child's Lunch

Here's a good one.  CNN reports that 27% of young adults (17-24 years of age) are ineligible to join the armed services...because they don't meet the physical requirement.  The study says that obesity is the number one cause.  Retired generals and military types called the youths "too fat to fight"; but, rather more disturbing is that "75% of young Americans between the ages of 17 to 24 do not qualify for the military because of failure to graduate [from high school], criminal records or physical problems."

Let that sink in for a sec.

I clicked on the article because the teaser was about how school lunches are "a national security risk".  I am very passionate about the subject of school lunches, but more generally, how we feed our kids.  I can see where they were going with that link, but it's kind of a stretch.  I'd say the bigger threat to national security is education.  Clearly we need an overhaul of lunch programs so that kids are fed meals that don't double and triple load on carbs, rely on frying to give flavor and will provide actual nutritional value that isn't cooked completely out, say when broccoli becomes the color of an army jeep.

The "give a man a fish" rule of logic is in effect here.  If children have access to the knowledge they need to feed themselves in a safe and healthy manner, they'll develops good eating habits.  Don't just give 'em tuna on wheat and call it a day.  I remember when I was in school, the class called "health" was not about dietary tips.  If it was, maybe no one remembered because the subject competed with the more popular subject of "how to lose your virginity".  

But, the onus is on the school system to make sure kids have access to these options.  Pfft- scrap that- the onus is on the system to provide only healthy options.  If Junior wants to bring the belly-buster special to school five days a week, let him: at least the schools would be doing their part.  But, then comes the next important part: parent accountability.

Twenty years ago, who taught you about using a computer?  I can tell you the answer was NOT your parents.  To assume that parents have the inherent knowledge to provide good tasting, nutritious meals, is just assuming too much.  Again, it's back to education.  The mass producers of "easy" and "quick" meals of all sorts have done their homework, gang.  They know how many meals a week we don't cook.  They know how busy we are, how much money we spend on take-home meals and they provide hundreds upon hundreds of products that are supposed to make our lives easier.  Yeah- a hot dog and chips is easy, too.  

Ahhh, but there's the rub.  I live in absolute guilt that I allow my daughter to eat a "Lunchables" meal because she spotted one at the store and at only three years of age, recognized it is something "fun" that she wanted.  No one told her what it was, no cartoon characters on it; it was at the right height with the right colors on the box in the grocery store.  She swiped it off the shelf and ran away with it. Since birth, she has always eaten all the foods we eat.  Roasted and braised meats, fresh fish, cheeses, root veggies, grains of all sorts, and just about every vegetable I'd ever turned my nose up at when I was a kid.  But, all it took was one time to cave in and say, "oh- it's just for fun, it's no big deal" (said the crack user to his pusher).  

So one day, when I decided to lay down the law, I took a ring mold cutter and cut real cheddar cheese and real baked ham into little circles and put in some simple crackers to see if the little Oscar Mayer meth-head would notice.  She did not.  The next month, I discovered Grammy sent home some Lipton noodle soup in a packet with her.  I was rushed, it was convenient, I made it, and she ate the hell out of it and asked for more.  Checked the label, sodium level was at 29% of RDA and in contained MSG.  They got me again.  

And don't get me started on ketchup: gateway drug.

See, I'm not getting preachy, but even if we choose to not feed ourselves well, we need to get the kids we bred to a point in their lives where they can make informed, smart decisions about the future of their health.  I'd very much like to see new generations learn how to properly cook vegetables and enjoy them as much as any fried potato.  I'd like to see proteins from meat and fish become an equally shared portion of the plate, not the main event.  And, I'd like to see restaurants and grocers that specialize in this kind of trend flourish, profit and grow to a majority.  

If you don't think you can fight the big corporations, or if you think you don't have a choice or a voice, just think how McDonald's would react to losing a market share to people eating healthy.  They wouldn't like it, not one little bit.  And, so they would be forced to win-back what they lost to that ever-growing segment of the population who want more variety and more nutritious options.  No?  Maybe the Colonels were right then.  Maybe we are too fat to fight.


Velva said...

Well said. I am not sure that I can add much more to the lunch debate. Although, I agree that the school system shares a responsibility in ensuring a healthy lunch-attitudes about food start at home. It's not just that our kids eat healthy food at home, it is about our food culture. We rush to get meals on the table, cooking for many families is a chore-we don't teach our children how too cook or the real pleasures of food. Many children and adults too, have not a real clue to where their food comes from or how it is processed for their families consumption.

Great post!!!

R said...

Precisely, Velva! The best way to nurture and grow that culture of food is at home. If parents get involved, from that point on, the squeaky wheel gets the olive oil, yes?

Velva said...

Yes, the squeaky wheel get the olive oil :-)

Ann from Edible Education said...

fell into your site through Google images - love it! keep up the humorous and uphill climb towards a healthier haven!

Hands-on cooking for healthy living


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