Fries and Pizza and Candy, Oh My!
By Alix Litwack, Good Earth Natural Food Store
If you have kids in school then you are probably aware of the fact that the cafeteria is not serving the healthiest fare. Seriously, my daughter’s high school sells about $1,000 worth of french fries every single day and I’m not talking about healthy oil or baked fries. I mean the bad fat, extra salt and lacking nutritional value kind of fries.
Most school cafeterias sell a large amount of fried and processed foods because they are cheap and easy to make. With obesity as the number one health issue confronting our youth, isn’t it about time to revolutionize the options at schools all across this country, including here in Indiana?
With limited budgets and food vendors that offer limited products, it is difficult for cafeteria directors to create healthy choices. If you ask, most cafeteria directors/school nutritionists would tell you that the kids don’t want the few healthy choices that are offered. That nine times out of 10, a student will choose the cheeseburger, fries, pizza, chicken tenders and cookies that are always offered. The salads, yogurt, fresh fruit and vegetables are not big sellers.
How do we change this? First, know that change is possible. It may not happen overnight, but it can happen. Numerous public school districts across the nation are choosing to offer a wide variety of healthy food choices—and are doing it without breaking the bank.
Famous chefs like Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver have helped schools start both healthy lunch and healthy garden programs at schools. My favorite healthy lunch crusader is a chef named, Ann Cooper. She calls herself the “renegade lunch lady” and has in fact, spawned a fantastic movement of healthy lunch programs at schools around the United States. You can check out what she is doing at her site www.chefann.com or www.lunchboxadvocates.org. There you’ll find resources on how to lobby your state legislature, how to garner funding through grants, recipes, resources and much more.
Second, it will take parents, staff, administrators, school boards, legislators and health practitioners to come together with the intent to support our kids in healthier ways. We all know that smoking is hazardous to one’s health. Lots of money gets spent on anti-smoking campaigns for teens. We do not tolerate teen smoking at schools. Yet, we tolerate poor eating that in the long run, is just as damaging as smoking. Obesity is not just about being fat. Obesity can be the underlying cause of diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, digestive problems, etc. Study after study has shown that eating whole foods that are not processed, packaged and additive-laden is the foundation of good health.
My hope is that the “Food for Thought” theme will inspire and motivate many people in this community to re-examine our food priorities. Why not eat more locally, seasonally and organically? Why not offer healthy choices for kids in school? Why not put the resources forward to make the necessary changes that will positively impact thousands of children and help them be as healthy as they can be?
Looking forward to hearing what others are thinking.