Sunday, February 21, 2010

Michelle Obama's Let's Move Initiative and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Have Me Fired Up

Tater tots, while funny in Napoleon Dynamite, are not the stuff of healthy lunches.

Green beans with no crunch and the slightly tinny taste of a can. I'll pass.

Cole slaw bathing in mayonnaise. Not the best way to dress the otherwise healthy cabbage.

Hot dogs full of nitrites, sodium, and um, meat parts perched in a bleached white bun. Gag.

Ketchup and french fries deemed vegetable servings. You've got to be kidding me.

Fruit cocktail in which the cherry is more the color of a mustang convertible than what grew on George Washington's tree. Gotta be FD&C Red #3 Erythrosine.

Chocolate milk. Strawberry milk. Soda vending machines. Looks like the Wiggles need to teach all youngsters to Gulp Gulp drink some water.

Such are the "healthy" options deemed appropriate for school lunches. The very institution that enriches our children's minds poisons their bellies. No matter how gifted the student, he'd be hard pressed to properly pronounce the ingredients and additives that comprise his lunch.

Propylene glycol.
Sodium nitrite.
High fructose corn syrup.
Monosodium glutamate.
Potassium bromate.
Butylated hydroxyanisole.
Butylated hydroxytoluene.

Sounds more like the chemistry lab than the school cafeteria. What a ghastly disservice to our kids. Some of those kids only get a "nutritious" meal at school. Some of those kids don't have produce drawers stocked with snap peas for munching and bowls of washed fruit within reach. While we're pumping our students' brains with reading, fractions, history, and the arts, shouldn't we add a healthy dollop of nutrition and activity? How many school districts do you know of that have reduced or all together axed their PE programs?

We as a nation of partisan bureaucratic greed mongers, choose to fail our children. This is not a byproduct of government snafus; this is a conscious choice. It's no cliche that children are indeed our future. Our future is starting to look bleak.

We see childhood obesity rise while test scores plummet. We sit back and nod our heads to news that for the first time a generation's life expectancy will be shorter than that before it. We cross our arms and ignore the rapidly rising rates of childhood diabetes. We are incredulous that children have high cholesterol. We wonder why health care costs soar to jaw dropping peaks.

Corn subsidies and continued policies that put the value of a buck over the value of a child are why we see such a drastic increase in childhood obesity. Look around, people. What you see ain't pretty. Chunky babies are cute; portly preteens not so much. While their bodies fail them their self-esteem gnaws away at their core. Eating disorders ensue. Yo yo dieting perpetuates health concerns. Broken self-esteem leads to grave insecurity and depression.

In the case of my childhood friend, poor eating literally lead her to the grave. Dead of anorexia at age 16. She battled weight her whole life, having been poked fun of as the chubby kid one too many times.

I was fortunate to participate in a conference call with Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. He shared his personal tale of childhood obesity and the indelible mark it left on his psyche. He shared his vision of keeping our children safe and well. We talked about Michelle Obama's initiative Let's Move and how she, as a shining paragon of health, can help shape our nation's food policies and school programs. Fingers crossed!

The goals of Let's Move are simple:
  • Give parents the support they need.
  • Provide healthier food in our schools.
  • Help kids be more physically active.
  • Make healthy food affordable.

Do I hear an AMEN?!

And while I find packing lunches the most tedious task in my nightly routine, it's the most important one. I might fail my sons in multiple ways, but through their bellies ain't one of 'em.

For more of my food rants and raves, check out:
Foodie Mama
Michelle Obama's Let's Move Initiative and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Have Me Fired UpSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


megwhite said...

have you seen this blog?

Unknown said...


My biggest beef - Gatorade is sold in middle school as a "healthy option". The kids actually think it's better than soda. Nick says some of these kids put away 2 16-oz bottles of the stuff during a 22-minute lunch period. That is a QUART of Gatorade. I can't even begin to guess the calorie intake, but I'll bet dollars to donuts it's a lot more than a kid sitting on his butt in a classroom all day needs at lunch.

Keep fighting the good fight - and let's share lunchbox ideas, I've been uninspired lately and my kids are getting tired of turkey sandwiches!

Jen L. said...

AMEN! Awesome, awesome, awesome. Also--WTF IS that on that plate????? I see soggy broccoli and some sort of chocolate cupcake thinger, but what's that square? If I can't identify it, I'm not eatin' it....and neither is my child.

Unknown said...

Jen L., it's either cheese pizza, or it might be these particularly horrific things they call cheese dunkers, which is basically bread with weird gummy cheese melted on it. To be fair to Wake County Public Schools, they are really limited by the pitiful amount of money per serving they are allotted by the state. As I understand it, they are currently in the red...

Magpie said...

Amen! And ditto what megwhite said - check out that blog.

The Gourmez said...

When I worked as a nutrition director for a small charter high school in Boston, I learned about a company called City Fresh, which somehow manages to make fresh, healthy meals that comply with US nutritional standards and cost only a little more than the average school lunch. They had several contracts to bring in the meals to schools like the one I worked for in the area. Maybe some enterprising Triangle person should think of starting a similar business!

Alix said...

Yup. Enriches minds but poisons their bellies. Love it.

Anonymous said...

AMEN! School lunches are positively grody. Thankfully ours just started a fresh veg/fruit option daily and has begun to buy a little locally grown produce. I applaud these changes, but wish for so much more. Those cooks in our school (I have this on very good authority) spend most of their days opening cans and reheating their contents. And when I went to high school, our cooks made our own croutons for salad...swoon!

Unknown said...

Seriously? I don't even make croutons, and I fancy myself a decent cook! I can't even imagine...

April said...

I make the girls' lunches every day except on Fridays. But then there's the issue of kids trading. *sigh*

Jennifer @ OrangePolkaDot said...

Well said Ilina! There was once an NPR segment a few years ago about the school lunch program at the Berkeley public schools that was great. I think the director of the program created a program that schools could implement & maybe wrote a book... I'll never forget the part in Super Size Me when the school for kids kicked out of other schools changed the menu to healthy, real, cooked in a kitchen food & behavior problems diminished.

I have been impressed with how well kids eat here in Catalunya. My school is a Waldorf school so it isn't a huge surprise to see organic food. Kids that brown bag it, bring little bottles of olive oil to drizzle their first course salad or soup. So, I checked out the public school lunch menus and they are the same - reads like a typical restaurant menu here. The link to the menu is at the bottom of the page. http://ow.ly/1agvc

Anonymous said...

Amen. And wow, that looks disgusting.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
scot said...

And just think if we can get kids to eat healthy and reduce obesity in the next generation, the outcome it will have on Healthcare costs...

qandlequeen said...

You are dead on correct.

We joked as kids about dismal school lunches, but I was horrified what I saw on the trays when I went back to work for the schools. And every year it got worse. One menu item that was a big hit was a giant pretzel with cheese. AS THE FREAKING ENTREE! I gladly chucked up the extra dollar when they had Papa John's Pizza day. It's sad when take-out pizza is the healthiest offering on the menu.

Totally sickening. yes, this should be the top of someone's agenda.

qandlequeen said...

Oh forgot to add, the rise in behavior problems has to be directly linked to diet - hell that is a whole rant within itself.

Colleen said...

Well said! And that blog megwhite mentioned is truly horrifying. My son's not in public school yet, but my fear is that even if we pack his lunch, he'll see the school lunch as "better" -- I know I did when I was sent to school with the dreaded sandwich on wheat bread. Sigh.

Cold Spaghetti said...

Yes and yes. I wonder what pull the administration will have with the FDA? And the USDA? School lunches are the way they are because it's working for folks who make a lot of money keeping things the way they are. Selling poor quality meat to public schools (lower standards than those met by fast food industry -- where 3/4 of the meat is positive for things so heinous I shudder), as an example.

Though you're making me feel better about the fact that I can't get my kids into a public school. At least at the private school, a local restaurant provides awesome healthy lunches.

heather said...

Hear that...food in schools has only gotten worse and what I remember wasn't that good in the first place! I work hard to teach my kids about healthy eating and positive choices but feel confronted every time I turn around. It took me FOREVER just to get my husband on board, albeit grudgingly.

I hope we can start to change things for the better as more people take notice.