Or that’s my fear, anyways.
We have always been healthy eaters and I thank my parents for raising me on vegetables and balanced meals. A couple of years ago my husband and I watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and we were horrified to see the awful food children are being fed in our school systems. When Jamie came back for season two, well, lets just say that the US public school system was not ready to welcome him and the season was a flop. Schools appeared to be focused on one thing- doing the bare minimum to get “nutritious” food to our children all while getting the cheapest, most processed food available. Saving on the bottom line now is only going to cost our future generations more in the long run as diabetes, cancer and heart disease all plague our population.
I’ll tell you one thing. We don’t eat like that at home, and I would not want my child to have processed or sugary foods as her only choices for eating. (Yes, I hear you nay-sayers, I can pack a lunch. And I will, when that time comes.) In a world where the government considers pizza a vegetable , and where a third of our population is obese, it is time to look in the mirror! You are what you eat. So, if you eat pizza and french fries every day, well, 1+1=2, if you know what I’m saying.
My beef with school cafeterias goes all the way back to my days as an elementary student. Yes, you read that correctly. My elementary school decided to use disposable trays, and as a 4th grader, I decided to start the Jr. Environmentalists League, which refused to throw away trays and started spreading the word about recycling and saving the planet. You might say that I irritated many a cafeteria worker that year. I happen to be pretty persistent. Especially about causes that I believe in.
Today I’m asking for your help to team up with Real Food for Kids Montgomery, an advocacy group that wants our children in Montgomery County, MD to have healthy, REAL food options. Currently kids can get a chocolate milk and a cinnamon bun for free in their classroom. I can’t believe that is even true. (Someone please tell me I’m wrong. This is just what I have been told.) Real Food for Kids has done great work helping our local schools to start to make changes to remove additives from some foods our children are offered, and to increase transparency about what our children are being offered as choices. Many parents are not happy when they learn about the wide availability of processed salty or sugary snacks available to kids. Real Food for Kids wants to help Montgomery County Public Schools to increase healthy choices like vegetables, fruits and water. Instead of pre-cooked, reheated processed foods, RFKM aims to get fresh cooked meals on the plates of our kids.
Real Food for Kids Montgomery will be testifying in front of the Board of Directors of MoCO PS June 3rd in Rockville, MD and presenting a petition in support of their cause, no scratch that, our children’s cause. Please take a moment to read the petition and sign it! Even better, if you can attend, do it! For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to testify use this email email@example.com. If you can’t do either, please share this post so others know what is happening.
If you need some additional facts here are some from the petition:
- Currently one-third of all American children are overweight, and of that group, approximately 17% are obese. Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled(1), leading to a lifetime of chronic illnesses. If this trend continues, one-third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives(2).
- In Maryland, the prevalence of diabetic adults has grown from 6.8% in 1999 to 8.7% in 2008, which continues to be above national levels(3). In addition, there are significant racial and ethnic disparities. Black females (12.5%) in Maryland have almost double the diabetic rates of white females (6.8%)(4).
- Nationwide, 40% of children in African-American and Hispanic communities are suffering from overweight or obesity(5). Given a growing body of research that suggests that obesity is associated with poorer academic performance beginning as early as kindergarten(6), this could help explain some portion of the achievement gap.
- Within MCPS schools, many a la carte and vending items sold are high in sugar (note: the American Heart Association recommends that children ages 4-8 consume no more than 3 teaspoons and pre-teens and teenagers consume no more than 5-8 teaspoons of added sugar daily)(7). They also contain ingredients found to be less than safe by the Center for Science in the Public Interest(8). Often, students will select and eat these items instead of fruits, vegetables, and meals. In addition, most of the foods served in MCPS meals are processed and contain additives, some of which have been shown to cause cancer, hyperactivity, and other behavioral impairments in children(9).”
We are lucky in Montgomery County, MD to have some of the highest rated public schools in the country. This is MoCoPS’s opportunity to take a leadership role in revolutionizing the way our children are educated and fed. It certainly won’t happen over night, and it won’t happen with out an internal champion. Change is never easy. Change for the right reason is always good. Let’s do this MoCoPS. Let’s show the rest of the country how we revolutionized school food and taught our children healthy habits for life.