Or is it just costing the taxpayer more money?
Consider the average American family that frequents fast food restaurants and whose grocery carts derive over 90% of its calories from meat, dairy, eggs and refined carbohydrates. Now ask yourself how the children in that family (after growing up on McNuggets and pizza) are going to suddenly prefer to eat the “healthier” choices in their school lunchroom.
Our nation’s school systems are putting the cart before the horse and trying to force healthier foods—before educating the parents, teachers and students about exactly what constitutes a true, health-promoting diet. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that five of our nation’s largest school districts plan to use their collective clout (2.5 million daily meals) to promote more wholesome foods in their cafeterias.
The main problem begins with their definition of wholesome foods. From the last paragraph of the article (See link below):
To demonstrate their collective mission, alliance members plan to serve the same lunch at all six school districts in March. The menu: savory roasted chicken, brown rice with seasoned black or red beans, steamed broccoli, fresh seasonal fruit and milk.
If I saw that meal on the menu at a restaurant, I would be thinking that it could be easily transformed into a health-promoting meal—while saving me money at the same time. I might place my order thusly:
“I’ll have the savory roasted chicken, hold the chicken, double up on the rice, beans & broccoli, substitute water for the milk, and the fruit for dessert. One more thing, kindly reduce the price accordingly.”
News about those five huge school districts makes for good press and gets everybody thinking that we’re going to be providing healthier meals for the kids. But the headlines are misleading, for several reasons. First of all, we’re missing three critical steps:
- Education in the home about what truly healthy eating is all about.
- Education in the school that reinforces what the parent is telling the child.
- Understanding of what constitutes a true, health-promoting diet that is capable of preventing or reversing diabetes and obesity in our children.
And savory roasted chicken with cow’s milk ain’t it. In researching for this blog, I spoke with one of my fellow board members at the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. She is Dr. Antonia Demas, the founder and director of the Food Studies Institute—a non-profit devoted to improving the longterm health and education of children: From her website at foodstudies.org:
Dr. Demas’s “Food Is Elementary” curriculum (see link below), has been used successfully in more than 2,000 schools in 33 states. She consults throughout the U.S. and abroad and trains and certifies teachers as food educators. Dr. Demas is a Visiting Scholar at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and at the University of Illinois Medical School
Antonia spoke candidly about the need to “stress the importance of sensory-based food literacy education as a necessary first step to gain acceptance of new foods.” Without that critical education piece that should begin in the home and then reinforced in the schools—we create a lot of waste (kids won’t eat it) and it costs more money in the long run.
Her reaction reminded me of one of my earlier blogposts about doing the right things; not just doing things right (See link below). In this case, the right thing would be four-fold:
- Replace the commercially driven USDA Dietary Guidelines with guidelines that have been scientifically and clinically proven to promote health.
- Promote those guidelines heavily in the media so that parents can learn what they should feed their children if they want them to be healthy, have trim bodies and avoid diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease as they get older.
- Teach these new health-promoting dietary guidelines in the schools, beginning in kindergarten.
- In the school cafeterias, serve only the healthiest of foods. That means mostly whole plants and little if any animal food products or heavily processed carbohydrates.
This is an example of doing the right things. You see, it doesn’t matter how much better you’re doing some “things” if you never get around to doing the right things. From the article, here is a classic example of trying to do the wrong things better:
Each alliance member has been assigned to a specific project. New York, for example, is working on lowering prices for organic, free-range chicken.
The Bottom Line. Tragically, they’re all missing the main point—“We’re eating the wrong food.” Trying to lower prices for free-range chickens is like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Ultimately, someone with the influential power of a Bill Clinton must begin beating this drum loudly—every single day. To borrow a line from Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s new book, WHOLE, “No less than our future as a species hangs in the balance.”
- Source article in L.A. Times. L.A. Unified and five others are striving to make wholesome food a national standard.
- The “Food is Elementary” curriculum at the Food Studies Institute.
- Earlier blog. Doing “things right” or doing the “right thing.” Which is better?
- Earlier blog. Children — NOTHING is more important than what they eat!
- Earlier blog. Oxymoron of the week: Healthy School Lunches
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to email@example.com
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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation