Thursday, June 23, 2011

Food Kills

Diet related disease is the biggest killer in the United States.

A few weeks ago it was announced in our local paper, The Daily Progress, that during the Charlottesville City School Board meeting they received a petition of 700 signatures calling for a "restriction of sugar in our schools".  One in three local students in the 4th grade and over are overweight or obese!  I encourage you to click the link and sign the petition by the School Health Advisory Board.  One speaker at the meeting stated that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.  My personal experience is that of ALL the items that I removed from my diet while on the plant based diet (Engine 2 DietSUGAR was the worst to kick!  This diet removes dairy, meat, sugar, packaged foods, and oils.

The School Board discussed if the overhaul should focus on restricting food options or simply educating students.  The Administrative Coordinator for Nutrition Services agrees with the latter, saying "if you take away choice from a student you're going to get a rebellion and they're going to get it regardless of whether it's here at school or outside the street". 

When did schools veer away from feeling responsible for feeding NUTRITION to our children?  No one said to take away choices, just to remove the unhealthy ones!  Yes, children can bring to school a bag of nutritionally deficient food but that doesn't mean that the school system intentionally serves calories, sugar, and fat just because it's the diet kids adopt after they leave the property.  What ever happened to serving by example?  Maybe if they tasted healthy options at school it would carry over into the home.

I don't have kids in the school system so I was pretty clueless as to what products were available on school property.  At one time Coke machines were allowed and I don't know if you can still purchase soda in the Charlottesville City School System.  Juices are all sugar and are available in all schools.  Per the Charlottesville City High School menu options, every day you can get Pizza or a Deli Sandwich and also available are hot Nachos and Cheese, Cheesy Bread sticks, assorted bagged snacks, cookies, Ice Cream, and bottled beverages.  When I see Chicken Nuggets offered, even just one day a week, I shudder.  I remember when I was a student living in Roanoke, Virginia, I would reach for the thing within a bun nearly every time with a side of fries.  The Pizza tasted like cardboard, and the Macaroni like chalky paste.  It wasn't that I didn't want to eat healthy, it was just that they didn't know how to cook healthy!

The Charlottesville City Elementary School menus have Low fat Chocolate Milk as a choice (ALL SUGAR) and no non-dairy options.  Hey, what kid would not select the Chocolate Milk!  It should not be a choice, period.  I see that one day a week you can get Chicken Nuggets (ground up fat coated with fat).  Other days you can get something on a bun or pizza.  Sides include baked beans, potato wedges and a few healthy choices such as green beans, salad, and fruit.  All those things are good but paired with cheeses, buns, chicken mash, and chocolate milk, I'm not impressed.

Even worse appears to be the Albemarle County School System menus.  French fries and Burgers every day for high schoolers, Corn Dogs, Chicken Nuggets, Cheese Burgers, Nachos, and more Pizza for Elementary schoolers.  Another term for this is FAST FOOD.

There is much room for improvement in the Charlottesville School System cafeteria offerings.  A fantastic show that details healthy eating in the school system and the problems encountered when challenging the "status quo" is Jamie Olivers Food Revolution.  His school menu revamp program began 7 years ago in Huntington, West Virginia and he is now in Los Angeles.  It is truly an eye opening program and the crap that is allowed in our schools "based on the USDA food pyramid" and other "esteemed documents" is mind boggling.  NOTE: The new food pyramid is much improved.

The first items Jamie targets are juices and flavored milks, then he swaps out buns for wraps and hey, you can have hand chopped baked potato wedges, just not prefabbed coated and fried or a baked potato.  Bean Tortillas instead of meat on a bun are another favorite swap he makes.  He is a chef first which makes his meals much better than what is currently being offered in ANY school and students LOVE his food!

Schools should listen to him and adopt his protocols to provide healthy options to our students while away from home.  It's been way too long that parents have not been directly involved with what their kids are being fed.  Remove the blinders, toss the expert literature in the can and begin again.

Corporate America controls our food supply.  Buy local food when you can!


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