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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bad Nutrition in the Public Schools

A couple years ago, I saw a special about nutrition in the public schools, or, rather, lack of it. I was very surprised by what I saw. In one particular district, meals were no longer cooked onsite, but, rather, were trucked in and essentially just heated up for serving. Not a whole lot different in concept from microwave meals, really.

Since then, I've read article after article about the rise of type II diabetes and obesity among the young. I guess that's not surprising when soft drink dispensers are available in schools and meals are now the equivalent of something you can simply nuke at home.

What is surprising to me, however, is this: school systems are run and administered by educators and, in principle, you would think that these individuals would have realized that a) this approach does not equate with health and b) this is not an approach that teaches and stimulates a healthy lifestyle.

When I was a kid, way back in the stone age (this is sad, I know, I'm starting to use those depracating statements that older individuals who are insecure about their "middle-agedness" use), meals were actually cooked at the school. We didn't appreciate them, of course, and the continual commentary regarding school lunch boiled down to "this sucks", but we did get exposed to a wide variety of different foods and different food types. And we either ate it, or we didn't. To drink? Milk. Not Coke or Pepsi or Mountain Dew. Just milk. Sort of boring, yes, but it wasn't full of sugar and it didn't fill you with wasted calories.

Frankly, I'm amazed that the educational system has let things slide so far south. Soft drinks in school? Anyone who thinks that is a good idea probably should be reconsidered for their job slot. However, ultimately, the difference between nutrition in the public schools then (for me, late 70s and early 80s) and now, the decline of nutritional standards, and the rise of obesity and type II diabetes among the young--falls at the feet of parents.

Now, I came across a post on the Sugar Shock Blog that discusses the novel concept of putting salad bars into elementary schools. As a university research team found after this was done, children who were exposed to more fruits and vegetables in their diet...tended to include them as part of their dietary choices more often. How novel.

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