Some schools say they are concerned about food allergies, and it is true that for some children a stray bite of someone else's peanut butter sandwich can mean anaphylaxis and even death. But I don't think allergies are the main reason that districts across the country are racing to put new food policies in place. After all, children are allergic to strawberries, wheat and dairy, too, but there are no proposals that I'm aware of to ban any of those foods.
I fear there's something else at work — a fear borne out by a flier my fifth grader brought home saying that at the monthly pizza hot lunch, no child would be allowed to buy a second slice of pizza. The district says the new ruling is to avoid bad feelings caused by "inequities": if everyone can't have extra helpings, no one can.
This solution may seem rather Solomon-like. But if equity is the issue, I'll eat my lunch tray. I believe the schools are overreacting to the so-called obesity epidemic, and in the process are doing our children more harm than good.
Education, politics, and anything else that catches my attention.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Food Wars In Schools
The New York Times has a reasoned article about the food police in today's schools.
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It's part of the same mentality that makes kids feel helpless and turns them into these odd out of touch adults that we see in the workplace. Just as if a child is diabetic, or asthmatic or suffers from any other disability or disease, the child at an early age needs to learn to be proactive. A diabetic child MUST know when their blood sugar is dropping. An asthmatic MUST know when to use an emergency inhalor. Why then is it that a child with an allergy to peanut butter feels as if they can eat anything from anyone else's lunchbox without asking what's in it? While I can sympathize with the need to protect young kids, at the same time there are studies that show our overindulgence in regard to germs and bacteria has actually created the plethora of kids with allergies to common everyday materials. And, as you point out, there are far more kids that are lactose intolerant or allergic to wheat or corn, but nowhere do you see a program to eliminate those from the school cafeteria. It's just another dose of hype from the media. Just like the movies hyped us away from nuclear power, they are trying to control our kids via food. Right now my cafeteria is getting ready to lower the number of chicken tenders from seven to five and get rid of pizza entirely. I already have kids that don't eat at school. My kids never did because they hated the selection. Maybe we should just get rid of the school lunch program entirely because I just don't see many kids flocking to a diet of nuts and tofu.
You do not think that there is a real obesity problem in America?
Whether there is or not isn't the point. The point is whether or not this is the way to resolve the issue--and whether or not schools have a business telling kids what they can and can't eat in their lunches.
The first step in addressing any problem is admitting that it exists.
Cases in point, Ronald Reagan ignored and mislead the public regarding the biggest public health crisis on his watch, AIDS. He wouldn't even admit that there was a problem until the matter was out of hand. This is why he will go down in history as a so-so President, probably forgotten a hundred years from now.
Now I’m not sure as to the effectiveness of this particular solution, but at least I will not go so far as to trivialize the problem by referring to it as a “so called” epidemic. If you do not agree with a solution, fine. However, it is counter productive to dismiss a solution by minimizing the scope of the problem.
Note that, it's not only like health campaigns in that regard. As is usual in new fads and trends in public education, this is not only not backed up by any credible research, but the available research indicates that it's nonsense. It reminds me of the old joke about Marxism from the Soviet Union:
Student: Teacher, is it true that Marx was a scientist?
Teacher: Of course! Comrade Marx was the greatest scientist of all time!
Student: Then how come he didn't try this cr@p out on rats first?
It is irrelevant whether there is or is not an obesity crisis. What kids eat is their parents' business, not the schools'. Period.
This is just one more area where the schools are being expected to parent the students. Being a parent is more than just giving birth. Parents should teach their own children about healthy eating and monitor it the best they can (while they are young). Once a student is old enough to make their own food choices and buy the food with their own money, this is where the idea of personal responsibility comes into play. Nobody ever wants to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions. Hence, the lawsuit against McDonalds for "causing" obesity. Ridiculous.
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