school lunch – setting the stage?
My local paper has been focusing a lot on nutrition in schools this week, with a three day feature about food in our local schools, followed up by a feature this morning on a specific local school district with a notable foodservice system. The school district (along with two others in New York State) received a $5,000 “best practices” award for the food they provide; they have been recognized for getting creative with commodity surplus foods in an attempt to provide more interesting and nutritionally sound meals to the students they serve.
This series is just one example of the larger trend we’ve all seen a lot of: attacking obesity in the US by placing a stronger focus on obesity prevention and education than ever before, which includes reaching out to children. Providing palatable, healthy meals and nutrition education to school-aged children is still pretty new, and I’m curious to see the positive effects in ten or twenty years; when these children are autonomous adults and able to make their own decisions about what to eat, will we see a difference in obesity rates?
A lot rests on our ability to educate children as to the importance of healthy diet habits. Working in the weight loss industry (and putting a good deal of effort into maintaining my own weight) I have seen firsthand the struggles people go through when it comes to developing new habits as adults and trying to reverse the effects of their old habits. Although the perils of poor weight management – cardiovascular health, blood sugar, knee/joint problems, lack of energy, etc etc – strike a chord with my clients, it’s not enough to keep them from turning to food as a universal band-aid for their problems. I’m optimistic that we can turn this around, but it will definitely be an uphill battle. My clients were loved, welcomed, punished, rewarded, and taught right and wrong through food, and I think it will take starting with a clean slate and actively trying not to use food as a stand in for love and attention to turn this whole mess around.