Friday, March 19, 2010

My Big Brainy Idea

Every day there is a new report of the American obesity epidemic. It's clear that we've screwed things up: despite our constant promises to start healthier eating on Monday, our kids just keep getting fatter and fatter. In fact, this article released today credits the Journal of Pediatrics with reports that a study of more than 700,000 children and teens in southern California found that more than 6 percent, or 45,000, were extremely obese.

This means that these childrens' weight is above the 95th percentile for their age and height and extreme obesity is 1.2 times that measurement.

On the same day, I heard a report on NPR about a parent-teacher association in New York that was fighting for the right to hold fundraising bake sales of homemade goods, the healthy goodness of which testifed to by the mothers who baked them with their own whole wheat flour and organic butter, instead of the packaged snacks like chips and cookies mandated by the school.

And the day before, a friend forwarded me this blog, written by mothers, teachers, and cafeteria workers who are fed up with the "food" that is fed to the children in school each day. This post features comments from students who express an interest and desire to eat more healthfully, as well as their willingness to pay extra for that luxury.

So I started thinking....someone needs to get that PTA and these kids together...and start selling fruits and veggies on little tables in the hallway outside the school cafeteria! Problem solved! Aren't you glad I was paying attention today?

Listen, I don't claim to have all the answers about our national troubles. But I do kinda think

a) maybe we should fund school programs with something other than selling baked goods, homemade or not,

b) maybe we should stop feeding our kids tater tots for lunch and then wonder how they all got so fat and stupid, and

c) even if kids say they will buy and eat fruits and vegetables at school, they probably won't, until we invest time, energy, and money into teaching children and parents about how food works, why its important to eat well, and how to do it every day.

People say knowledge is power, but I disagree. Action is power. We have knowledge of our rising obesity epidemic, but that knowledge isn't doing anything other than providing opportunities for CEOs, politicians, and administrators to jump on a popular bandwagon and call for change. It's up to individuals to make the changes through action.

So....any ideas on how we start?


E. Peterman said...

School lunches were semi-gross even in my day. However, my generation of kids wasn't bombarded with the marketing of pre-packaged food, fast food and the idea that food=fun. Plus, we had a lot more time for physical activity during the day, so it's a double-edged sword. I'd be interested to know how budget constraints affect cafeteria offerings. As for fund-raisers, I'd be perfectly happy to buy more books or just write a check once a year. But I also realize that schools in low-income neighborhoods can't just say, "Hey, parents. Give us $100 and keep your cupcakes."

susie said...

It's all about budget. The trick is to feed kids school lunch for something like $1.00 a day. I think breakfast is even less. We tried to do it using "better" food in our grade school, and were mildly successful, but the numbers didn't work long term. It only continued because of grants and volunteers, and that was hard to sustain. The food was great, but much was still thrown away. Cut the portions and guidelines aren't met. It's really a mess.