kitchen table math, the sequel: for immediate release

Friday, February 19, 2010

for immediate release

Statement by Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, In Support of Campaign to Combat Childhood Obesity

I feel much better about childhood obesity now that we've got Randi Weingarten on the case.

I'm sorry.

I had to say it.

29 comments:

concernedCTparent said...

lol.... oh, me too!

Crimson Wife said...

Where's the evidence that community gardens and PE (as nice as they are) really do anything significant to combat childhood obesity?

If our nation really wanted to do something about obesity, IMHO we would have a junk food tax with the proceeds going towards subsidizing the cost of healthy food. When I cleaned up my diet several years ago to help me lose the pregnancy weight after my oldest was born, I was shocked by how much my grocery bill went up. We could afford to spend more to eat healthy, but many folks these days are really struggling to make ends meet. We should encourage healthy eating by making it cheaper, and discourage junk food consumption by making it more expensive.

Anonymous said...

The Atlantic did a piece last issue about how community gardens in schools are failing students.

-James

Anonymous said...

I hate to sound like Grumpy Old Man, but in MY day we didn't have junk food vending machines all over the school. We sure didn't have pizza and burgers/fries as an option every day.

At least while they're at at school they could try to not add to the problem. Is there some law that says they need to have access to a coke at all times?

Maybe they'll form a committee to analyze strategies on how to fight this phenomenon since it's such a mystery.

SusanS

Ben Calvin said...

Maybe we could start some Discovery Eating programs, so kids could learn to eat what they're interested in....

Redkudu said...

I still love the part in "Super-size Me" where Freeman visits the schools who cut sugar out of their menus and make only fresh, healthy food and found that disciplinary problems dropped. Problem is, as noted, eating healthy is more expensive.

Then again, "carbs keep 'em quiet" is the philosophy of fine prison institutions everywhere. Why not in schools?

One thing I can say about my current school - no vending machines.

But they still offer kids a plate meal of enormous, doughy pieces of pizza with a side of tater tots, and two-gallon jugs of mayonnaise and ranch dressing for kids to drown it in. That's from the snack and salad bar. From the meal bar is an anemic chicken patty between two enormous hamburger buns, some limp green beans (who wants green beans with their chicken burger?) or...tater tots and fries.

On a rare visit to the cafeteria this week I was charmed to see a student's face light up when he saw they were offering watermelon. "Watermelon!" he said. "Is there a limit to how many slices we can have?" I told him to take as much as he wanted and I'd pay the difference. He removed one of the two slices of pizza from his plate and piled on five slices of watermelon. I paid the extra fifty cents.

This month our cafeteria has been offering up red foods for February, but the choices don't seem geared toward kids' taste much: blood oranges that look a little rotten on the outside (though they're not), dried cherries that tasted like prunes, radishes, and pomegranate, which is a hard sell.

To Susan S: in my day we didn't have all those options either. You ate what was on the menu for the day, or brought your lunch from home. I know a lot of kids don't have the luxury to bring lunch from home, but I've always speculated that 1 hot meal entree, or an optional salad/sandwich meal (sandwich on a hearty bread, not an enormous Subway-style roll) would be fine. Pizza every other Friday or so for a treat.

What I fear is that by placing pizza and other junk foods in front of them at every meal sends kids the message that these are normal, every day foods rather than special occasion foods - and they take that impression with them outside of school.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing, Redkudu. They normalize fast food by offering it daily.

I was too lazy (and exhausted from my healthy morning breakfast of Cocoa Krispies and/or Captain Crunch. What were my parents thinking?) to make my own lunch, so I'd pick around the edges of some gaggy Salisbury steak and canned vegetables. While that was awful, I can't say that it's any worse than what they offer now, plus there's an automatic calorie lowering aspect to it being that it was nearly impossible to get down.

SusanS

Redkudu said...

I think I remember that Salisbury steak - correct me if I'm wrong - but it was a burger patty drowned in a brown sauce? :)

Anonymous said...

I take this to be confirming evidence that the Obesity campaign really is all about SEIU organizing school cafeteria workers.

Anonymous said...

Healthy food is not necessarily more expensive.

Crimson Wife said...

It's been my observation that for just about every given item, the healthier version is more expensive than the less healthy version, often significantly so. For example, 1/2 gallon of organic milk costs the same as a full gallon of the regular stuff. Whole grain bread costs 2.5x white bread. Fatty ground beef costs about 1/3 as much as lean ground bison. Wild salmon costs five times as much fish sticks. Fresh organic produce can be 10 times the cost of canned fruits & vegetables loaded with sodium or sugar. I could go on, but you get my point...

Linda Seebach said...

"Organic" is not the same as "healthier." It's just more expensive.

Anonymous said...

I think the real problem is lack of exercise. Yes, there are many parents who push their kids into competitive sports but many kids are left behind. They won't 'get' team sports (perhaps because they were never taught the necessary skills to perfection) and sit out in the bleachers.

ari-free

palisadesk said...

Organic can be healthier, as when veggies are grown in mineral-rich soil: they will contain more nutients per unit than most vegetables from large commercial farms. However it is difficult to know since no objective standards are imposed on organic foods. One way to get organic produce and support a family business is to buy shares directly from a local farmer. That way you can know what you are getting.

But "organic" as a buzzword is very misleading. After all, lead and arsenic are organic!

On the price aspect, when I lived in a low-income area in downtown DC whuike attending graduate school, I noticed that prices at the local Safeway for all kinds of food -- vegetables, meat, even canned goods and bread -- were as much as 30% higher than in the higher-income area along MacArthur Boulevard where my parents lived. This certainly impacted the diets of low-income families.

Ebenezer said...

What Linda said. When I started fixing really healthy meals (no processed frozen foods, no soda pop, no donuts, no chips) I saved lots. More than enough to allow a bit more for extra fresh produce --although clearly you go with locally available cabbage and apples and not imported raspberries and kiwi fruit.

concernedCTparent said...

If you're going to choose where to splurge on organics, it makes most sense to opt for organic produce when you eat the skin (strawberries, grapes, etc.) as compared to one in which you don't (oranges, bananas, etc.). Local farmer's markets are usually a good buy and it supports the local economy too. Co-ops that offer all organic products usually end up saving you lots of money over time and worth looking into if you're considering making the switch to organics and buying local.

concernedCTparent said...

One of the many issues the documentary Food Inc. touches upon is the high cost of healthy food as compared to junk food. They focus on a family that is struggling to make ends meet and compare the cost of feeding the family with the "dollar menu" at McD's as compared to buying fresh produce at their local supermarket. It's just a no-win situation when you can get a burger for a dollar.

Catherine Johnson said...

Fresh food is fantastically expensive.

Beans, on the other hand, are darned cheap.

Of course, now that I've taken to ordering 'heirloom beans' from Rancho Gordo, that will change.

I need bean recipes, btw.

Catherine Johnson said...

I've gotta brief everyone on my vegan weight-loss diet.

I've lost 11 pounds since September 25. Ed has lost 8 pounds just from living with me. C. lost a few pounds, too.

It's an amazingly easy diet.

Catherine Johnson said...

2 words:

pencil skirt

momof4 said...

I remember that getting better grocery stores in the lower-income areas of DC was a big issue when I lived in that area. Part of the problem was increased cost because of crime (including shoplifting), necessitating higher security and insurance. Part was food preferences that didn't include lots of fresh produce, so there was a spoilage issue. People growing up on junk tend to like same - I agree with above comments on school lunch creating bad habits.

It is perfectly possible to eat healthy on a tight budget, but it does require planning, a certain amount of nutrition knowledge and the ability to cook from scratch. Many people don't have that knowledge. I remember when my kids took home ec in middle school, to meet a practical arts requirement, we were appalled at the course content. There was very little nutrition included and the foods prepared were overwhelmingly in the junk category; nachos, fudge etc. In the time available, they could have done real oatmeal, omelets/frittatas, soups, pastas and some basic chicken options. All of such things can be done at low cost and incorporate leftovers. My mother used the term "planned overs", and planning ahead saves real money without sacrificing cost. In combination with whole grains, beans and tomatoes, much less meat can be used without sacrificing nutritional value. Shop once a week, use what's on sale, cook two or three times and eat well all week. It's perfectly possible.

momof4 said...

Catherine: There are some good bean recipes on www.williams-sonoma.com, under soups, stews and vegetables. Many can be done vegan-style. There are also good ones on www.epicurious.com and www.cookinglight.com. Back in the early 90s, I found an excellent white bean and tomato soup - really a stew - on one of the last two site.

Crimson Wife said...

Organic milk is WAY healthier than conventional milk because it doesn't have any of the growth hormones or antibiotics. The Naturopath I used to see told me that for omnivores it's more important to buy organic animal products than organic plant products for that reason.

Ebenezer said...

This thread started on the topic of obesity, not organic-vs-nonorganic. For that purpose, the extra expense of organic is irrelevant. Compare healthy conventional to unhealthy conventional. Healthy is not more expensive. It can be far less expensive because of cutting out unneeded, unhealthy snack foods. A better caution is offered by ConcernedCTParent. It's true that if you can buy a burger for a dollar, you can't provide a meal from healthy calories for the same price unless you spend some time cooking. Which we seem less and less willing to do.

Crimson Wife said...

Actually, the growth hormones in conventional dairy products have been linked to obesity because they mimic insulin.

I didn't eat processed junk food like chips & soda to begin with. The junk in my diet was primarily refined carbs (white rice, white bread, white pasta, etc)., conventional dairy, canned produce, and fatty cuts of meat & poultry. Switching to healthier versions significantly increased my food bill. It wasn't a huge problem for my family, but others aren't in such a fortunate position.

That's why I think the government should impose a junk food tax and use the proceeds to subsidize the cost of healthy food.

rocky said...

That's why I think the government should impose a junk food tax and use the proceeds to subsidize the cost of healthy food.

I'm reminded of the movie Demolition Man, where Sandra Bullock tells Sylvester Stallone that he can't put salt on his food because the Government has determined that everything not good for you is bad for you, hence, illegal. Pass the rat burger...

Cranberry said...

That's why I think the government should impose a junk food tax and use the proceeds to subsidize the cost of healthy food.

Can interstate commerce be stretched that far? Nevertheless, the folks who bring you the school lunch program (unhealthy or inedible, but great for industry!) can't be trusted. Just think of the killings lobbyists would while Congress drafted that law! Why, you'd see Cheetos declared a health food, while local bakeries wouldn't be able to afford to fill out the multiple bureaucratic forms.

rocky said...

Can interstate commerce be stretched that far?

Gallons per flush.

:)

Seriously, the $1 burger is a masterpiece of logistics, just-in-time delivery, customer research and cooking schedules. It puts a hot, fresh, menu item in the hands of a customer within a minute of his driving up to a window. The Government can't even keep the lines below 20 minutes at the driver's license bureau when they could probably know WHO will be coming in that day.

But Government can make that burger more expensive by taxing it, and it can give (part) of that tax to the Tasteless Baked Potato Company, so it can stay in business...

Anonymous said...

There's a huge cost to the taxpayer for that $1 burger-- longterm health. People absolutely have a choice to eat that "hot, fresh, menu item", but it's going to cost money in the long run (and not just to the person who ate the $1 burger). Similarly, there is no reason that taxpayer dollars should subsidize school lunches that contribute to obesity, diabetes, and all the myriad of health problems they are tied to. That's paying twice: once for the psuedo-food and then again for the health care (eventually I'll pay through higher premiums with my own insurer, a more expensive healthcare system, or to cover Medicaid, Medicare, etc.).

I don't want my taxes to pay for junk math and I don't want them to pay for junk food either.