by Greg Everage
Laura and I had the pleasure of attending a function over Labor Day weekend here in Marin. It was an event sponsored by Slow Food USA and was nationwide. The event was titled “Time for Lunch“ Campaign and was an Eat-In to bring the community together and discuss how we could better the lunch programs at Public Schools in Marin and across the nation. Nationwide there was 300 Eat-Ins with 1000’s attending to show support and help to come up with a solution to give the US school children population the healthy, organic and tasty food they deserve. There was a very good gathering of like minded people, all whom brought a dish for everyone to share, as we discussed the issues that surround supplying our youth with the proper nutrition that will help them to achieve all that is asked of them through their daily and yearly scholastic process of learning and growing. This event was impressive in that it is basically a grass roots movement and dovetails with many of the emerging food movements in the United States. Such as Slow Food, Sustainability, Organic and the birth of Urban Farming, along with the rebirth of small Rural Farming.
The current stats on the quality of food supplied by public schools to school children reflect a true negligence on our local and national government as well as our local and national communities and parents. Not to long ago and still present in some schools are the large food corporation’s presence in our public schools cafeterias and hallways. Vending machines sodas and snacks along side of Pizza Hut and other fast food ventures. Brightly colored ingredients with next to no nutritional calories.
Also supporting the less then adequate eating habits of our youth are the low quality food choices supplied by the schools themselves. Reflective of the investment made by the schools to keep the costs down so that the actual cost to students are kept low. I would say here that yes, on the surface these are balanced nutritional meals, but I would dare say that anyone of us reading this blog would not enjoy consuming these meals on a daily bases. The importance of the quality of food directly affects the taste and enjoyment of the food and meal. This quality of food creates a perfect reasoning for our children run directly towards the Fast Food windows in their school cafeterias or the vending machines waiting patiently for them out in the hallway. When faced with these cheap, low quality and unappealing meals they encounter on a daily bases, why wouldn’t they look for something else, you would. Even though the fast food and vending machine items are less nutritional than the cafeteria offerings, they have taste and that taste is designed to excite the areas of the mouth with the sweet, sour, salt and bitter tastes. Empty calories but packed with taste. A problem? Yes, a problem that has created a downward spiral in the health of our children, which is reflected in the huge numbers of obesity amongst children, which is a number that is currently climbing. Stage one and two diabetes, short attention spans, low scores – a domino effect. What needs to be done? How can we as a nation, community and as parents help to slow this process that has been installed by corporation America over the last 15 to 20 years? The answer, GET INVOLVED. Not only with your local schools and governments but right at home. Get in involved in the relationship your children and family have with food.
There are wonderful organizations out there such as:
Slow Food USA – Time for Lunch Campaign
These sites and organizations are focused on the basics of healthy food for the communities. With ideas and a call to action as to how we as a nation, community and as parents can help change the food landscape that is now present in our public schools.
When ever there are discussions about the long list of a child’s life in a school. Their academics, social interaction, appropriate social behavior, retention, attention span and communication skills are annualized quite often and a child’s progress through their academic life is gauged by this list. Usually the feedback is quite consistent from the schools to the parent, and that is “it starts at home”. This has never been truer when it comes to nutrition and your child’s relationship with food and it’s consumption.
Getting involved in your public schools quest to offer healthy, clean, and tasty food will only be effective if your child and family members understands the difference between good healthy food and processed unhealthy food. There needs to be time taken in involving your children and your family in the process of planning, purchasing, preparing and consuming for all the meals that the family will be sharing and consuming at home. Each one of these pillars will help your child to understand where good food comes from, how it taste, and how to combine it with other foods to create tasteful and healthy meals. Through training their palette to understand how good healthy food can and should taste, you are establishing a strong base for you child to then develop upon. By consuming good nutritional food, your child will have the energy that a child’s body and brain needs to stretch and grow, but to also have the energy it takes to be active physically and mentally. Giving them the ability to be present in the learning process. Thus in turn giving them the tools to succeed. Your children will carry these basics and food fundamentals on with them for the rest of their lives. Will they fall off “the cart” and eat junk food. Yes, their kids. But once an individual has learned a basic fundamental and it is practiced consistently, they will eventually gravitate back to what they know, understand and like. Especially if it was something that the family took part in during the formative years. Again, it is not easy. It can be a whole lot of fun for the family, friends and spouses. But it is something that needs to be done.
Children are our future. Our environment is our future. Healthy eating habit and proper nutrition is the road to that future.
Take those steps to not only improve your life but that of school children, the community and the nation.
Children thrive at the dinner table and they take that knowledge to school.