Monday, April 26, 2010

school lunches . . . really?

A threat to national security?

While I am completely in support of the nation serving up healthier fare to kids in schools, a group of retired military personnel calling themselves "Mission: Readiness" is trying to blame the increasing number of overweight and out-of-shape teenagers on school lunches—not so sure about that.

We are what we eat to a certain extent and I am currently testing that theory with my sugar-reduction challenge. I do believe kids and the entire country drink too much soda, diet or otherwise. It's all crap and it causes weight gain and contributes to who knows how many other adverse health side effects down the line (obesity, diabetes, etc., etc.) But to rest it all at the door of the albeit crummy offerings at school cafeterias—nuh uh.

If you want to target schools for their lackluster non-nutritional lunches, how about also getting them for slacking off on promoting the other side of good health—physical exercise? This country is very much about sports and achievement, but the focus is squarely on the winners, the ones who make the team. Is good exercise stressed for the rest who might not be a star basketball, football or baseball player? Is it stressed evenly between boys and girls? We rely more and more on computers to do our work at home and at school. Are students being encouraged to get up and away from the computer screens, to take a walk, a jog, get some fresh air?

And what about the parents of the kids who are just "too fat" for the military? How many jumbo liters of soda are in their fridges? How many times a week do they all hit a fast food joint for a meal? Do they dine together or separately?
Silhouettes and waist circumferences represent...Image via Wikipedia

I'm not trying to cast blame on anyone, really, but I think it's foolish to focus solely on the one meal a day that is served away from home. The vegetables on the menu may consist solely of french fries and ketchup—hey kids, two servings! If that is the case, I agree, that is sad. With cutbacks happening everywhere, the traditional lunch lady many of us grew up with who parceled out sloppy joes and baked beans may now be just a figure of myth. Most food served at school cafeterias these days seems to be either hot dogs and hamburgers or of the frozen dinner variety. Most kids are unlikely to get access to the other extreme, a chef-inspired lunch.

Focus on the quality of life in this country is unfortunately skewed. There is so much emphasis on money, money, money and all that it can buy a person—status, travel, beautiful clothes and surroundings, the latest gadgets. Not everyone can afford luxuries, but we all can eat. Food is the one thing that anyone can indulge and overindulge in. And what tastes "richer' than something sweet, or bubbly, or cheesy, or fried?

What seems almost comical to me is that this study is being presented with an attitude—"Mission: Readiness" is trying to scare the schools into serving better fare so that the kids can all be enlist- and draft-worthy. Shouldn't we try to inspire better eating habits and better health because it's better for all of us? Talk about inspiring kids to want to pack on the pounds. Who knew that might be a "quality" that makes you ineligible for service?
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