Thursday, January 10, 2008

No wonder our kids are fat...

As the presidential campaign has taken a forefront in the news as of late due to the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, health issues and health care have become hot topics. Not surprising, I read two articles this week that got a rise out of me, but for different reasons. It's no secret that Americans (and frankly people in general) are getting fatter. Just the other day there was an article about Britons feeling overweight and wanting to do something about it. Even in Great Britain the health forecast doesn't look good for obesity. It's a huge issue and we all know it. I don't think we really need a hundred studies to tell us why we are getting fatter. It is rather a very simple reason - we don't exercise as much as we should or at all and we eat a lot of processed and fast food. That is not a very good combination. However as there are some people who just keep doing studies to identify causes of the problem (which we already know), there are others who are actually doing something about it.

The first article I came across was about a study done on adolescent girls which concluded that those who viewed themselves as popular gained less weight than those who saw themselves as unpopular. As I was reading this article I could hardly understand why the National Institutes of Health would waste precious monetary resources on such a ridiculous study. It's ridiculous because it is stating the obvious, regurgitating what was established a long time ago. It is no secret that self-image and confidence play a large part in health and weight, especially in girls. There have been countless studies done over the decades on eating disorders, body image, weight gain, etc. We all know that when someone doesn't feel good about themselves, they will probably gain more weight and perhaps be a more unhealthy than someone who does. Great. Now let's do something about it. How about we stop doing studies on things and come up with a solution. Feeding our children fast food at schools and providing them with vending machines full of candy and soda is not a solution. It angers me when I read the findings of these so called studies because I think there are so many other worthy health issues to study - cancer, Huntington's Disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimers... these are all things that have no cure. We should be spending our money on those things, not on something that has already been identified.

After ranting passionately about how annoyed I was over this article to my husband, I was happy to come to work the following day and read an article about someone who saw a problem and used her resources to make change. Big-shot celebrity chef Ann Cooper decided to use her passion and talent for food to make an impact in the lives of school age children. She worked as the executive chef of wellness and nutrition for a school in East Hampton, New York where she made enough of an impact on school lunches and how kids eat that she is now the director of nutrition services in Berkeley. She has managed to get fruit and a salad bar on the menu every day as well as providing other healthy options over the usual pizza and fries. In addition, she teaches cooking and gardening classes and has her own website Lunch Lessons.
There are a host of other organizations and people who are striving to make changes in the way school lunches are handled. It isn't the responsibility of the schools to teach our nation's children how to eat right and be healthy. That responsibility belongs to parents, but unfortunately we have a lot of lame parents who don't care what their children eat or do in school or after school, so they learn from television and other forms of destructive mass media. However, these kids don't have much choice when their only options for lunch are pizza, chicken fingers, fries and burgers or maybe a vending machine full of soda and candy. So many of these students are going to end up with diabetes probably before they reach the age of 25. This is a major health crisis. If the school must have a vending machine, then it should be filled with water and healthy snacks like trail mix, popcorn, etc. Soda, candy and fried foods should be eliminated from the menu because we all know those things have little to no nutritional value and for a nation that is increasingly more sedentary all that food does is sit in the stomach and get stored as fat.

I am a big proponent of teaching kids about food, where it comes from, what good foods are and why. And I can pretty much guarantee that I will probably send my kids to school with their lunch while I do my part to make a difference in the school system. Change can happen when people care enough about the cause. We should all care enough about our own health as well as that of our family, friends and co-workers to take a vested interest. There is good in the world yet thanks to Ann Cooper and many others who are fighting for less trash and pollution, better energy sources, better health and less destruction in all aspects of our lives. Let us all get on board the train...

3 comments:

Beth&Cody said...

I agree with your thoughts; it is a very frustrating situation. Even more frustrating is how expensive it is to eat healthy and how cheap it is to eat trash. I'm not surprised the celebrity chef worked in the Hamptons. We're trying to eat healthier but things like organice and alternative foods are so expensive. For instance rice bread is $5 while regular whole wheat bread is $3. Someone on welfare doesn't have the option to buy what they should most of the time and sadly our grocery stores don't stock it here in Harlem anyway. Frustrating.

nikki said...

I know it does stink... I don't have a solution but one of these days a brilliant idea is going to form and then look out fast food.

Will & Natalie Giddens said...

Nikki,
This is Natalie (Kilgore) Giddens from your days at NewsNet. I'm not even sure how I got to your blog, but I'm so glad I found it. Congratulations on your marriage!! It was good to catch up with you - blog style. :-)