Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kids Are Getting What They Want, Not What They Need

By Tara Flakker

I just finished watching the preview of the new Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution show via Tivo. (The show begins at it's regular time and day on Friday, March 26th, at 9pm EST on ABC) I am fired up about the fact that kitchen cooks at the school profiled in the show have the nerve to say "this is food and it is good". Then, adding that they would and do eat it.

Let's just start by finding a way to diagnose what is being served at schools for lunch and breakfast. Trained as a social worker I would begin my diagnosis by doing the old "rule out" piece first. I, for one, rule out calling what schools are serving "food." And I think I can safely jump to Michael Pollan's definition of what he calls "edible, food-like substance".

I am not okay with feeding our kids "edible, food-like substances" instead of real food. We have seen a food revolution here in America for some time now. And while a part of me cringes at aligning myself with a television show, I must say I'm putting a little hope in this show.

This will be the first time that America will see what's really going on in school cafeterias via mass media. Millions of families who send their kids to school each day, hoping that U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations are good enough, are going to be watching. They are going to come face to face with the fact that our kids are not getting what they need, but what they want.

As parents, we know all to well about just giving our kids what they want. It never works. Never in the long term. Giving kids what they want is a short-term solution to a long- term problem. But in the case of food and what children eat, we are not just going to find that the results are an overblown sense of self, or the inability to self-regulate. Where food is concerned, the cost of failure is very high. As Jamie Oliver so eloquently points out, the cost literally involves children's lives. We are feeding them "edible, food-like substances" instead of real food because it is easy, because it is cheap, because it meets the bottom line.

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of hearing Barbara Martin from the mid-Atlantic regional USDA offices speak at a conference. She mentioned the Jamie Oliver show. She admitted that the show was not going to be very positive about school food. She said, in fact, that it was going to be pretty bad. She then took the challenge of the show as an opportunity to speak out about the things they--meaning food service working around the country--are doing right.

I would like to hear that response. I would like to know how potato pearls (highlighted in the show) meet USDA guidelines. I would like to know what else is in the potato pearls that exceeds the definition of "food." You know, those things that are added that throw it over the edge to being an "edible, food-like substance."

So while I normally would not tout a television show I urge all of us to watch this one. I urge us also to sign Jamie's petition. It's a small step, but an easy one.

So now we have people listening. No more talking about what kids want. Let's start talking about what kids need.

No comments:

Post a Comment