Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This One's for the Men in my Life

Last week, my father and husband and I were sitting around the living room and they both started talking about how much they like my writing and miss my blog. So I decided to give it another try.

Since my last post, I've gotten hitched, started taking classes to earn some credits that I need before pursuing my Master's in Nutrition. We've been spiffing up the house and this summer, spending a lot of time indoors to escape the scorching Texas heat.

In the next few weeks, I'm looking forward to wrapping up a chemistry class, and taking off for our annual trip to Chicago. After surviving subzero temps in one of the coldest Chicago January's on record, my friend Mary and Kendall and I figured that we should switch seasons; Mary will come in the winter, and we will go in the summer, instead of the other way around. So off we will go to visit with Mary, my cousin Jonathan and his husband, to see some sites and take in some deep-dish. Sometimes, the thought of this trip is my saving grace to get through a daunting chemistry final and an incredibly frustrating lab.

The other thing that has helped is, of course, good food. Allow me to be specific. When I say "good food," I am referring to food that is simple, ripe, in season, healthy, filling, and not processed. I've become increasingly interested in food policy and specifically, school food policy. What are we feeding our kids? What are the politics behind the cafeteria tray? Who really thinks that giving a choice of a previously-frozen corn dog or chicken nuggets with some sort of potato product that's been deep-fried is giving students healthy options? Who are we kidding by thinking a few pieces of iceberg lettuce with some grated carrots, swimming in dressing, is a health food? And more importantly, why is this happening?

The blog below is a good one for exploring some of these questions, reading some statistics, etc.:

I've seen my nephew's school menu and it's sad. Here's just a sampling of a few days off his lunch menu:
  • Beefy Mac & Cheese; Hot Dog; Cheese Quesadilla; Green Peas; Orange Smiles; Jell-O
  • Baked Steakfingers; Bean Soft Taco; Fresh Garden Salad; Green Beans; Orange Smiles; Apple Sauce; Chocolate Chip cookie
  • Mozzerella Sticks; Lasagna; Cheese Quesadilla; Green Beans; Chilled Pears; Applesauce Cake
  • Cheese Pizza; Fresh Garden Salad; Ham Deli on Wheat; Mixed Veggies; Strawberries; Vanilla Pudding
To add insult to injury, the school system has devised a color-coding system of red, yellow, and green dots that they put by each food item that is about as informative as our current homeland security color system. Red is for the unhealthiest, yellow for the somewhat unhealthy, and the green for the healthiest options.

I'm not even going to begin on how accurate this color-coding is...other than to point out that "baked steakfingers," (likely frozen and reheated processed beef that's been breaded and deep-fried, frozen, wrapped in plastic and shipped to schools nationwide, then warmed or "baked" in an oven) is designated as yellow, the somewhat unhealthy option, not red. But more irritating is that the first three options don't offer a "green" or healthy entree. (The last offering does with a ham sandwich. But seriously, what's a kid going to pick-- the cheese pizza or the sandwich?) The only healthy things offered are the side dishes, some lousy salad or perhaps some overcooked peas, maybe some applesauce.

I understand that schools have a budget that they have to stick to and that school cafeterias have become more like restaurants, insofar as they have to offer food that kids will actually want to buy so that it sells, not food that kids should eat.

And parents aren't exempt from responsibility. Parents who pay for their kids' school lunch should have a discussion with their children about which option on today's menu would be best... and then hope they don't pull a fast one on you and order the pizza or hot dog or steakfingers or mozzerella sticks or mac & cheese or bean burrito or...

No comments: