Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The reality of our food culture

I watched the first two episodes of Jamie Oliver's new Food Revolution series on Hulu last night and as a result of what I saw, I couldn't sleep a wink.

Does it shock and sadden you to see a group of bright elementary school kids look at a bunch of tomatoes and not have a clue what they are?

Does it alarm the hell out of you to see school children being served pizza for breakfast?

Does it piss you off to see the amount of fat and sugar these kids are being served on a weekly basis?

If the answer is yes to all of the above, then you may feel despondent like I did last night. We are literally killing our children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of every seven low-income, preschool-aged children is obese. Repeat that to yourself. Kids are obese before they're even in 1st grade. It's despicable and horrifying.

If a child reaches such a point with his or her weight, turning back becomes incredibly difficult. One study found that approximately 80% of children who are overweight -- not obese -- at aged 10-15 years were obese adults by age 25. These kids face heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, not to mention social discrimination by their peers.

So the natural reaction to all of this is to ask who's to blame. The answer, of course, isn't an easy one. Schools, FDA dietary guidelines, fast food, parents' poor choices, advertising, time constraints on family meal times and a lack of education about healthy eating habits all share the burden of this terrible reality facing our country.

Thank goodness we have people like Jamie Oliver and Michelle Obama who are raising awareness of this issue.

On an individual level -- whether we're single and making our own individual food choices or we're parents -- the most important thing we can do is get in the kitchen. I know it's not easy for a lot of parents -- they work long hours and have more demands on their plate than they feel like they can meet, but we have to say goodbye to the easy choice of fast food and microwaveable meals. Of all of our priorities, the health of children should come first.

It's time to start cooking.


  1. I know, it breaks my heart, too. Unfortunately I haven't seen the show yet, since I live and Sweden and can get neither the regular broadcast nor Hulu. I watched Food Inc. a few weeks ago and also watched Jamie Oliver on TED. I went on a tirade and my poor boyfriend had to calm me down. The thing is that for many, many people this is so much more complicated that changing eating habits. My boyfriend, who is a middle school teacher at a public school in the Bronx, explained that so many of the parents work two or three jobs, can't be home in the evenings and can only afford to leave their kids $1 for dinner. One of his students buys her dinner at the dollar store. That literally broke my heart to hear.
    Because poverty can make it next to impossible to even consider the healthier options in many cases, I feel the school system really needs to step up and not only provide healthier meals, but also focus on teaching nutrition at a very young age.
    Phew, sorry for the rant. It winds me up :-)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your boyfriend's experience in Brooklyn. $1 for dinner. I can't imagine.

    In reading your comment, I realized that I may have put too much emphasis on the parents' responsibility in ensuring that their kids eat healthy. The majority of children actually eat most of their meals at school, so much of our focus should probably be on changing and improving school lunch programs. That being said, I recognize the challenge in doing so. It's not simple, and Jamie Oliver figured that out within just a short week of being in Huntington, WV.

    Thanks for opening my eyes to new ways of thinking on this.