My children went to public school this week for the first time ever. I have always felt that one of the benefits of keeping kids at home was feeding them nutritious foods. I knew that school lunches were dismal at best, and looking over the school menu, I may have underestimated how bad the lunches really are. But I'm not going to blame the school, the state, or even the USDA. Isn't it all of our faults?
First, I want to point out that it's ludicrous that children get free or reduced lunch at school. And yet...my children get reduced lunch at school! This simply means that instead of paying $1.70 (I think) per lunch, we pay $.40 per lunch. But like most people, if I qualify for it, I'm gonna take it. At least until my financial situation improves, my kids will be on reduced lunch and eat that junk. I know there are kids from much poorer families than my own. But I also know that those same families will be seen in the evenings right down the street from the school...at McDonald's eating a $3.00 Happy Meal for dinner. Let's get real! We are already getting virtually free child care all day, and then we expect the government to feed our kids for free as well?! What?! Where did this line of thinking evolve? And if kids only pay $1.70 for lunch, how do we expect them to eat real food for that?! (I would bet most parents like me would be happy to pay more if it was real and healthy food.)
Second, the schools are not to blame for the epidemic of processed foods found on every lunch tray across America. The problem did not start there. The problem started in our homes. Come to think of it, the problem started with the medical community pushing low fat diets down our throats to cure heart disease, which increased carbohydrate intake and told America that as long as it was low fat, you will be fine! So we have evolved into carb-loving obese Americans who will eat anything processed over anything green. And we have fed that to our children. Shame on us!
Thank the heavens for Jamie Oliver. I don't care where he came from or how rude he might seem, what he is saying needs to be heard. It is how our doctors should treat their patients that don't want to hear the truth. Eating healthy is NOT more expensive. Eating junk is expensive up front, not to mention the cost on the back end from future doctor visits. Eating healthy is NOT difficult. Put fresh carrot sticks, celery, and cucumbers in your fridge. Even my 7 and 8 year olds can prepare these themselves...and they enjoy it! Kids will NOT refuse healthy food. My kids absolutely love fresh fruit. They have eaten salads since the age of two. My daughter's favorite food was broccoli at the age of 3. At 7 and 8, they still love these foods. And while Jamie has great recipes and cooking ideas, it is even easier than that...get a steamer and use some sea salt. Get a crock pot and dump the meat and veggies in. Bury the deep fryer in the yard! LOL
We do have Oreos and Dingdongs in our snack cabinet. I am not a food Nazi. We have treats, but we do so sparingly. We also have cereal and Pop Tarts on occasion. I am ashamed at these confessions. And yet, I know that my children eat WAY healthier than most of the kids we know. We do eat at McDonalds. My kids get to choose nuggets or cheeseburger, and I choose apple dippers and apple juice for them. I share my fries with them, and still many get thrown away. "Normal" families wouldn't consider anything but getting fries for everyone, and eating every last one! This isn't right!
This problem has gone on long enough for grown adults with their own children to have grown up with poor food choices. It's time to STOP, think about what we are doing to our children, and CHANGE before it becomes a battle in our houses. Do this while your little ones are at home, so that when or if they go to school one day, they will eat the healthy foods on their plate instead of dumping them in the trash!
P.S. Start taking a stand for the children in your community. I am coaching my daughter's U8 soccer team. We are not participating in "after game snacks" which usually consist of brightly colored high fructose corn syrup drinks with trans-fat snacks that do absolutely nothing for them. How much sense does it make for our kids to run around a field for an hour, only to be fed poison in the end?! Duh!