Monday, May 31, 2010

Are Schools Food Deserts?

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

"Food desert" has become a popular term to describe urban and rural areas where people don't have access to fresh, nutritious food, rely heavily on fast food restaurants and convenience foods to feed themselves, and learn only bad eating habits.

Isn't that the very definition of a moden public school cafeteria in the United States today? From what I've seen, kids in most public schools have little access to fresh, nutritious foods and rely almost entirely on industrially processed convenience foods for meals. What vegetables there are in school meals typically are cooked to death and unpalatable. They're served anyway because the federal government requires them.

At breakfast, kids are doused with sugar in the form of processed packaged foods such as Pop-Tarts, Giant Goldfish Grahams and sugary cereals such as Apple Jacks. Even the milk is tarted up with high-fructose corn syrup and colorings to make it more like strawberry. These are exactly the same kinds of foods kids buy at corner convenience stores in food deserts, the kinds of foods Michelle Obama says are contributing to an epidemic of childhood obesity.

In short, kids at school are taught bad eating habits.

The more I think about it, the more schools strike me as a perfect example of a food desert. Maybe if more people looked at it that way, and looked at children as victims of an industrially processed convenience food culture, they'd get behind efforts to revolutionize the way we feed kids at school.

Happy Memorial Day.

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