Fry-daddies and other down-right scary things

This post is off topic but a necessary rant for me (thanks for listening).

I’m not one to promote TV shows or popular culture issues or to insert highly Google-able words just to get readership. If I was in this for high stats I would change my focus – “journaling” isn’t exactly a hot SEO. But I have to do this.

I stayed awake long pass my bedtime of 10PM last night watching the first episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (ABC site). I didn’t intend to be sucked in to another reality saga, but pizza for breakfast and a fry-daddy in the family kitchen had me hooked. Morbidly fascinated, to be precise. By the end of the show I was feeling thoroughly disgusted and afraid for this country’s future. I was also feeling smugly self-righteous.

One “lunch lady” was heard to say that the children would obviously choose pizza over Jamie’s roasted chicken (which looked delicious, by the way). Wouldn’t you? I mean, if you had never been given a real piece of chicken, all gloopy and yummy with sauce with a side of green, green broccoli would you really choose that over the greasy, carbalicious, instant high, eat-with-your-fingers pizza?

If parents decide that their children “won’t eat this” or “wouldn’t like that,” well, they won’t will they? My babies were given broccoli, spinach, peas, kale, etc. as soon as they could digest solid food. I liquidized it and added it to oatmeal or rice cereal. When they were older it was scrambled egg and a veggie. They would even eat cold tofu as a snack, and my son has been known to choose grapes over a cupcake at school. My oldest had hardly tasted sugar until her first birthday cake. She didn’t like it much… oh, how I wish it had remained that way! But what hope did I have when, upon joining at Mommy and Me group when she was just 18-months old, every birthday, holiday (seven in all), and oh, why not? Monday too, became a candy-cookie-chip fest. Start ’em young!

My children are not picky eaters. We don’t allow them to say they don’t like something until they have at least tried it. And yes, like most children they love pasta and breads, but they will also eat the “little trees” (broccoli) and “leaves” (spinach, raw with dressing). Don’t get me wrong, my daughter would devour all the cookies on the plate if left to her own devices and she would probably choose a hot dog over chicken if given the choice. But if only chicken was on the menu she would happily eat it.

The stomachs and double-chins bulging out of the TV last night made me slap my own forehead in exasperation. The shopping list for one (very rotund) family included nothing but processed food: corn dogs, hot dogs, donuts, and a freezer FULL of mini pizzas for “snacks.” OH MY GOOD GROSS! “Don’t you get it?!” I screamed at the TV. And then there were the food administrators who counted French fries as a vegetable and saw nothing wrong with the list of chemicals and additives on the box of pre-cooked mashed “potato pearls.” No wonder chubby, unhealthy children are growing into fat, dying adults.

Breakfast pizza, chicken nuggets, bright pink milk, canned fruit, pizza counting as the required two grains…

And this was all in compliance with the USDA standards!

Even in the tiny school in England I attended as a child had a fully-operational kitchen where all the food was cooked from scratch. We had “meat, potato and two veg” and then a pudding (dessert), usually smothered in custard, sometimes even chocolate custard (yum!), but in general it was a balanced meal made from fresh ingredients. In France, the children are taught from babyhood how to enjoy good food and how to sit politely and eat it intentionally (as opposed to throwing it down your throat while racing around the living room). In a back issue of Mothering magazine I recently read an article (which doesn’t appear to be available online) about how Japanese children are served not only a balanced meal but a eco-friendly and artfully-served one, a far cry from the American brown and ziploc bagged, throw-away processed meat lunches most American moms chuck together each morning. The amount of waste highlighted on Food Revolution was a crime. Recyclable bottle after recyclable bottle was dumped along with untouched salad and apples.

I should clarify here that this show highlighted one school in one city in one state. That city happened to be categorized as the most unhealthy one in the country – so we are talking extremes here. I happen to live in one of healthiest states in the country (according to various statistical studies, including this one from Forbes) but I still see chubby children sitting in carts of crap at the check-out line and high fructose corn syrup flowing freely from the cans of fruit served in daycare.

How could any loving mother watch as her children swell, get sick, and get picked on, and still feed them that junk? How can a school to whom we parents have entrusted our children’s care feed them such slop? I understand that we all have the option to send a packed lunch, but that is besides the point. School is about education – how to read, how to write, how to share, how our bodies work – shouldn’t that education include how to eat well? Obviously parents have to be the primary purveyors of this information but – let’s not kid ourselves here – some parents leave the full task of education and socialization, and more times than we like to admit, their sustenance, up to the schools.

Where is the responsibility? To our children? To the environment? To our economy? To our healthcare system?

As Whitney once told us, the children are the future. But what does that future look like  if all the sugar/fat/salt junkies are pulling up to McDonald’s drive-thru window for another quick hit whenever their energy and motivation seeps out their oily pores? It’s not the children’s fault. It isn’t entirely the parent’s fault. We are now looking at a generational, societal problem which is result of so, so many interconnected factors. It will truly take a revolution. And, despite it’s sappy, rating-grabbing reality TV venue, I support Jamie’s fight against the obese, profit-hungry monster that is the American food industry.

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