I need your help. For the life of me, I can't understand why certain members of Congress are trying to water down a requirement for schools to serve healthy lunches. Can somebody please explain?
We know there's an obesity epidemic raging in this country, and we know diabetes and other diseases related to poor nutrition have become alarmingly prevalent among American kids. We also know what a costly burden chronic diseases impose on this nation.
Hospitals have helped to lead the effort to educate their communities about the benefits of healthful eating. As I mentioned in an April blog, many hospitals have improved their menu choices for patients, staff and visitors. In another blog, I spotlighted the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and the UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, which are among the hospitals that have eliminated fried foods, as well as meats containing antibiotics. And for years now, hospitals have been sending dietitians, nutritionists and nurses into classrooms and other local gatherings to explain the problem of poor nutrition and to offer solutions, such as teaching how to prepare good-tasting recipes easily. Some hospitals have sponsored community gardens and farmers markets.
One in five children in this country live in a so-called "food insecure" household. Some days, the only meal they get is the school lunch.
Federal guidelines released in 2012 require federally subsidized lunch programs to cut the amount of sodium in meals they serve and to include more fruits, vegetables and whole grain breads.
Yet last week, the House Appropriations Committee OK'd an agriculture funding bill that would let many schools postpone meeting those guidelines. The rationale, apparently, is that healthful food costs more and that kids will simply refuse to eat nutritional meals. Some politicians also seem to think that the government is trying to dictate what kids eat and to limit their choices.
This is where I get confused. I'm skeptical that healthy food is significantly more costly than the high-sodium, high-fat, fried food some school cafeterias now serve. But even if that's true, isn't it worth the investment to instill healthful eating habits in our children early so they avoid obesity and diabetes and other diseases that will cost much more to treat over the course of their lifetimes? And how does offering a nutritional menu mean we're dictating what these kids eat any more than offering them a menu of unhealthful food does? And, finally, experience has shown that when prepared and presented appealingly, kids will, in fact, eat food that's good for them.
So why would a school administrator, who has dedicated his or her career to helping a community's children, not bend over backward to make sure the food served to students is as healthy as possible?
Why would an elected leader sworn to do what's best for his or her constituents not want to make sure the youngest of those constituents have the opportunity to eat at least one healthful meal a day during the school week?
And why wouldn't health care providers, who have done so much to promote good nutrition, raise holy heck about any attempt to subvert school lunch guidelines that are intended to help in that effort?
Can you help me to understand? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.