Mazzuca: What’s the lesson for kids?
“American society has become ‘obesogenic,’ characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, non-healthful foods, and physical inactivity.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sadly, the pediatric population is also included in this trend, as we are now seeing increasing incidents of diseases such as high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes in our children. And what is even more disturbing, although tragically predictable, is that the American Medical Association now estimates that our children will have a shorter lifespan than us as a result.
However, there is hope. The CDC also tells us, “Policy and environmental change initiatives to make healthy choices in nutrition and physical activity available, affordable and easy are the surest way to combat obesity.”
And that is exactly what a group of concerned Eagle County parents are doing with regard to providing healthier foods for our young people while in school.
But before I get too far ahead of myself, it might be wise to first define what “proper nutrition” is within the context of school food services. For our purposes, let’s define “healthy foods” as whole foods-foods that are not chemically altered – i.e., refined, hydrogenated or supplemented with artificial ingredients (thereby diminishing their nutritional value) from the time they’re harvested to the time they reaches the child’s plate.
The group’s ultimate goal is to persuade the Eagle County School District to have school meals and snacks prepared using fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than the sugar- and sodium-laden foodstuffs found in cans and prepackaged containers-which, by the way, are injected with preservatives and chemical additives put there specifically to increase shelf life. It’s also their desire to see fresh meat served at lunches rather than the processed kind.
Additionally, according to one member of the group, a balanced school menu should include vegetarian proteins (beans, tofu, etc. that contain less fat than meat yet are high in fiber and protein), as well as a variety of whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and millet.
Essentially, these involved citizens are on a mission to rid our kids’ school-day diets of processed foods and replace them with fresh, nutritious foods prepared on site in the school kitchens. It’s obvious these involved parents feel our kids already get enough high-fructose corn syrup, sodium, sugar, food coloring, additives and various preservatives and don’t need more in their school lunches.
Not all that long ago, my granddaughter Saphira’s kindergarten class was learning about the various foods that help children to grow up healthier. The lesson included pictures of fruits and vegetables cut from magazines to make a poster. However, when the lesson was finished, the kids went to the school cafeteria and were served abundant helpings of processed foods – a classic example of do as I say not as I do.
This was not the fault of Saphira’s teacher, as she should be applauded for instructing the kids in this important area. Rather, this instance epitomizes the unfortunate disconnect between the school curriculum and its food service.
Saphira’s mother, Dr. Eliza Klearman, who is a naturopathic doctor, believes school lunches should be a part of the school’s curriculum, not separate from it. She feels schools should encourage children to eat healthy foods at school and at home. If their parents don’t know how to eat healthy, they should at least be comforted in knowing that their child will be taught how to eat healthier diets while being fed nutritional and flavorful foods at school.
Dr. Klearman feels that in a perfect world, the kids might even take those lessons home and encourage their parents to make healthier choices in food selection. She envisions a child trying fresh asparagus for the first time at school and, after realizing it tastes good, asking his or her mother to buy some for that evening’s dinner. Unlikely? Not at all – anyone having experience with youngsters knows full well how powerful an idea or notion can be when properly presented to children.
Many professionals believe that if we improve the health of our children, we also raise test scores while improving behavior and mood. And today in Eagle County, there exists a core group of concerned parents who feel it is the responsibility of the school district to offer healthy, whole foods to our kids rather than the hydrogenated, preservative-added and chemically enhanced fare now being served.
What say you?
Quote of the day: “He who takes medicine and neglects proper diet wastes the skill of his doctors.” – Chinese proverb.
Butch Mazzuca lives in Edwards.