School Lunches

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/06/nyregion/healthier-school-lunches-face-student-rejection.html?pagewanted=2&hp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IB7NDUSBOo

The kids’ comments in this article capture so much of what is wrong with Americans’ attitude toward food. While the video is slightly comical, the impetus behind its creation is ridiculous. What do these kids actually know about nutrition? Do they want us to believe that “junk food from the corner store” or pizza made with refined flour and processed cheese actually keep them full longer than a fibrous meal made from less-processed ingredients? Doubtful, kids. What will keep you from feeling full, however, is fasting. Turning up your nose at the cafeteria offerings and not eating lunch, will, in fact, leave you hungry.

If these kids are smart enough to put together a video of this quality, they may not be completely ignorant of the health risks of obesity and poor diet. They may even have some understanding of the magnitude of the health care costs that are associated with these health risks. If so, I’d urge them to reevaluate based on these considerations. It’s easy to choose short-term gratification over long-term benefit in almost every scenario life presents. The frequency with which our society encourages myopia is arguably one of the many culprits of the obesity epidemic.  Educating students about these issues is critical to their future health, and the reform of our national food system.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act offers a longer-term approach, institutionalizing the practice of paying more (however minutely) for better quality food for kids. It is step in the right direction, despite its many flaws. I don’t claim to be an expert on the Act, but I don’t believe that one of its intended outcomes is weight loss. The idea that it is somehow being administered punitively, targeting overweight kids, is ridiculous.

The actual roots of the National School Lunch Program are in preparedness for war. So many young men were deemed ineligible for the draft during WWII because of the effects of malnutrition, the federal government intervened as a matter of national security. Now the army has, alarmingly, reported the opposite problem: too many young men are overweight/obese to the extent that they fail the army’s standards for acceptance. Knowing this, it should seem less intrusive, to those who feel intruded upon, that the government should impose these news regulations in school cafeterias.

Moreover, our cultural penchant for wasting food is revolting. “We are Hungry” would be easier to stomach if there weren’t millions of kids around the world, including kids in the US, who are actually hungry, malnourished, and facing death or chronic disease as a result.

Please share your thoughts!

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