Whatcha eatin?

Ahhh, food.  It’s a hot topic lately.  It’s causing chaos and uproar.  People are picking sides likes its West Side Story.

It’s all pretty funny when you think about it.  We can get so emotional about food.  Food is the stuff that nourishes our bodies (or is meant to anyway), yet we attach so much other “stuff” to food.  Emotions, the smell of apple pie on a late fall afternoon or fresh bread baking in the oven conjure up memories of mothers and grandmothers everywhere. Certain flavors or smells bring me right back to the days in college when I lived in Austria.   Swedish Fish (not really a food per se) brings back childhood memories of going to Sears with my grandfather and stopping off at the candy counter on the way out.  Food is even associated with sex, considered aphrodisiacs either by how they appear or how they react with our bodies while or after we eat them. But in the grand scheme of things food is what keeps us going.  It’s what our bodies need to keep running efficiently.

I’m not sure when the tides turned and people started realizing that not everything that is on the store shelves is good for us, but it seems that recently there is a heightened awareness to what we have done.  Perhaps it’s because America has labeled obesity as an epidemic.  Perhaps it’s because organic food is more readily available making people question what was wrong with what they’ve been eating.  Perhaps it’s because we’ve come to realize, the hard way, that all the chemicals in “food” are actually hurting us and eventually it does catch up.  Whatever the case may be, I can say that regardless of which team you’re cheering for, I’m glad for one thing.  We’re talking about it and to me, that’s progress.

The school my son goes to is a part of the Farm to School Network which if you aren’t familiar with it, is explained like this:

Farm to School is broadly defined as a program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Since each Farm to School program is shaped by its unique community and region, the National Farm to School Network does not prescribe or impose a list of practices or products for the Farm to School approach.

In any case, he’s been at the school for 3 years and in that time-frame I’ve noticed a difference, a shift for the better.  I’ve been trusting in the program and talking to my son when he takes “hot lunch” on occasion to see what is offered and what choices he makes.  So, today, when a friend posted on Facebook that the school will be adding Dominoes pizza to the lunch menu, I was alarmed.  Her post was followed by a phone call, we chatted about what’s going on and are both pretty upset about the change.  Just to make myself clear, I’m not opposed to pizza every once in a while, but what bothers me is that it appears as though pizza is going to be a daily offering.  I also need to note that I’m not 100% positive that this is going to be a daily offering, and I’m looking into this a little more, but the concept of it being offered to children every day really bothers me.

Moments after finding this out, I read a post on Facebook from the author of 100 Days of Real Food.  She described a situation where a neighborhood child came over to play and brought Pop Tarts for a snack.  Her point was that kids will eat what we offer them.  If you offer them Pop Tarts, they’ll eat Pop Tarts, but if you offer them for example an apple and raisins, they’ll eat an apple and raisins.  Sadly, her point was missed, she got blasted from a ton of parents about the subject and felt that she was judging the other parent.

That’s when I realized I’ve probably said some things that have come across as “judgie” without intending it to be that way.  For me, food is a big deal.  I believe strongly in eating organic food when I can, making good food choices as often as possible and eating everything in moderation.  I don’t ever mean to sacrifice people for their choices.  We live in a free country, we should all be allowed to eat what we want, right?  But it’s not that simple.  Our choices have led to obesity, and more medications and increased insurance claims and premium costs.  We’ve put many, many band-aids on our health rather than dealing with the real problem. So really all of our choices affect everyone else.  But, with that said, I also believe that many people don’t have a clue what’s wrong with our food.  And I don’t think they realize that most of the things on the store shelves truly are not good for us.  We trust that what’s in the stores is okay, right?  Unfortunately, not.  I strongly believe that we’ve missed the bus on teaching children, and grown-ups for that matter, what health really looks like.  I honestly don’t think a lot of people even know what food really tastes like.  I mean it.  If you were to strip it down, take off the seasonings, the sauces, the dips, the processing and “added flavors”, do they know what it tastes like? (What the hell does that mean anyway, “added flavors”?  What kind of flavors?)  I’ll give you an example – today, I opened a container of what I thought was egg whites.  When I went to pour it in the pan, it wasn’t clear or white like egg whites should be, it was YELLOW.  I’m sorry, but the last time I checked, I thought egg whites were white.  That’s when I read the back (which I obviously should have done earlier).  It contained 99% egg whites, coloring, salt and garlic powder.  WHAT? What’s wrong with egg whites?  I wanted egg whites, they were labeled as egg whites and I got yellow egg whites with salt and garlic powder.  Wow.  I must not like white egg whites and I must not like my eggs to taste like… eggs!

So what do we do about it?  We all love food.  None of us like to find out that we’ve knowingly or unknowingly been putting nasty stuff into our bodies or our children’s.  And worst of all we hate when someone else points out that we’ve done it because, well, we feel kind of dumb about it and get defensive, and now that we know we’re expected to do something about it.  BUT, if we all take a step back and quit judging each other or getting defensive and come to the party realizing we all become aware of things at different times meaning just because we know something today doesn’t mean the person next to us knows the same stuff and even if they do, they have the choice as to what to do with the information.  We all have the choice as to what to do with the information we receive.  But a lot of people never receive it.  It seems that it’s very slowly getting to the general public or maybe they just don’t care or think it’s not their problem. But we need to care about our kids!  Not my kid or your kid, but all of them.  We need to care what we’re feeding them.  Some kids get one meal a day, and it’s at school.  If we feed them junk at school, that’s all they will know.  Instead, we need to teach them the truth about food.  We need to offer them good food and teach them to make good choices.  We need to show them what happens if you treat your body well and what happens if you don’t.  We need to offer kids foods that nourish their bodies and minds.  And we also need to give kids some credit, we need to stop feeding them “kid food” because we think they aren’t mature enough to eat “real food”.

We need to keep sharing information with each other.  Share what we know.  Share our weaknesses in what we don’t know.  Ask questions of each other and support one another.  We need to care about more than ourselves because our future and our kid’s future depends on it.

Kate

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