For adults, one of the biggest guilty pleasures in life is having a big cheeseburger, a couple of onion rings, some potato wedges, a plate full of fresh cut french fries, and a bottle of Heinz ketchup to dip them in. But as health-conscious adults, when our waistlines start to expand we cut back on eating this type of stuff everyday. With drugs like Lipitor, we try to keep our cardiovascular systems healthy. But for kids, the ketchup still runs freely through their veins.
If you have been to a school cafeteria recently, you will have seen a bevy of products and prepared foods that do not instill the habits of healthy eating into the youth of our nation. Soda, french fries, pizza, burgers, and chips all line the lunch trays of students instead of healthier options like fresh vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Cumulatively these kinds of poor health decisions can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and small cancerous growths which can spread into a metastatic growth like a pineal tumor or other brain cancers.
The reason why schools are loaded with junk instead of wholesome food is for one simple reason, it’s cheap. In an article on Fox News, the head of food services for a school district in Connecticut said that a loaf of white bread costs $4.00, while a loaf of whole wheat costs $4.25. Alone they are almost the same price, but if buying in bulk for schools, the disparity is much more apparent.
The Agriculture Department and USDA have recently partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama in a campaign to try and put healthier options back into cafeterias. The recommendations include fewer starch items, more vegetables, a reduced level of sodium, and the introduction of whole grains into the lunchroom.
While these recommendations sound like a total no-brainer to anyone with an active mind, they are being met with criticism and hesitation by some members of Congress. In order to cut costs in school systems and help farmers in the corn and livestock industries, some influential lawmakers are promoting legislation that counteracts the guidelines proposed by most licensed dietitians.
MSNBC reports that some of the more conservative members of Congress are against the changes proposed by the government agencies because it cuts into the freedom of school administrators and parents to make dietary decisions for their children. While this is a noble theory, it has little to no basis in reality. A group of 8 year-olds will always go for a can of soda and a couple of slices of pizza instead of a grilled chicken salad with a light vinaigrette. Some decisions need to be made for those who can’t fully comprehend heart disease and obesity.
While children shouldn’t be forced to eat a diet consisting entirely of couscous and celery, teaching them about proper nutrition habits at a young age is akin to teaching them the fundamentals of a foreign language or math. Young minds can absorb knowledge at a surprisingly better level than their stubborn adult counterparts and the grade school cafeteria is an excellent place to add a curriculum addendum.