I know I’m probably the last person in the civilized world to see this movie, but when it came out, I scoffed. I knew McDonalds was horrible for the health of anyone who eats it more than once a month, but I loved my occasional Quarter Pounder with fries (never super sized, I might add), and I didn’t figure seeing the movie was going to change my mind. And at the time, I don’t think it would have. In fact, last night as I was watching with my husband, I said, “This is really making me crave some Micky D’s.” And it did.
While it was certainly entertaining, the movie didn’t share anything particularly new or surprising. I thought it was a pointless experiment, actually. We all know fast food is nasty, and who actually eats it exclusively? The doctors who were shocked that he was destroying his liver were amusing. I mean, REALLY? That was SURPRISING? I will say that the fact that he started to show signs of addiction was interesting, although even that was not particularly surprising.
Even though I haven’t had fast food since I started my “whole foods initiative” a few months ago, I can’t say that I never will again. It’s not totally unappealing to me; rather, when I drive by those famous golden arches, I often consider it briefly and then think to myself that I don’t really want it right now. Some day I might, and if I do, I may go ahead and treat myself. Hopefully it won’t taste as good as I remember, but I can’t say that watching the movie turned me off of McDonalds forever. That’s not the part that got to me.
I’ll tell you what really got to me — the scenes in the high school cafeteria.
That segment made me want to cry, scream, and bang my fists against a brick wall. And perhaps even consider homeschooling — not that that’s a horrifying thought; it’s just not something that I’ve felt called to do. Not yet, anyway.
But last night, as I watched those scenes of kids making lunches out of Ho Hos and Ding Dongs and potato chips, and the teachers pontificating about teaching them to make wise choices when there wasn’t a decent choice to be had in the entire place — the supposedly better choices were reheated, reconstituted packaged foods, undoubtedly full of sodium and sugars and fake vegetable oils — and then to see those lunches contrasted against the lunches at the school in Appleton, Wisconsin that were made with real, fresh ingredients, and they don’t even cost any more.
Did you get that? Feeding our kids real nourishing food doesn’t cost any more than the slop they are currently served in the vast majority of public schools across the country.**
So why aren’t we doing it? It seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean, diet has been linked to all sorts of learning disorders and behavior and health problems. Why are we feeding our children the same garbage we feed our prisoners?
Not that I’m necessarily in favor of feeding it to our prisoners, but my first concern is most certainly our children.
Of course, my kids are young, and I can pack their lunches, and as far as I know, they are eating the food that I send. For now. But I don’t think for a moment that I can send my teenagers to the school cafeteria where soft drinks and cupcakes and potato chips abound, and expect then to happily eat their natural peanut butter on whole wheat and carrot sticks while their friends pig out on junk.
And it’s not just about me. The way we feed our school children makes them distractable and lethargic and contributes to behavior problems and learning disorders. It affects the learning environment of our entire culture. I just don’t understand why improving the food in school cafeterias (and getting rid of soda machines and junk food) isn’t a top priority for every school district in America.
** This is what Morgan Spurlock stated in Super Size Me. I tried to verify this fact with online research (that is, if the two minutes I spent googling the topic qualifies as research) and came up with nothing. I have a hard time believing that real food is cheaper than reconstituted precooked food, but if you consider all the factors and the money saved on behavior problems and health and learning issues, real food always comes out ahead.
Sorry to be all Debbie Downer, and on a Monday to boot. Let me try and end on a positive note.
I am happy to report that the nurse at my children’s elementary school is very concerned about health and nutrition, and there is a Health and Wellness committee forming, which I volunteered for. I am anxious to see what we can do to help improve the school lunches in our district. I was also pleased to note at my children’s Back to School night that they are banning sugary sweet treats for classroom celebrations; instead they have a recommended list of healthier alternatives such as goldfish, soft pretzels, fruit pops, apple slices, carrot sticks, etc. There are plenty of things on the list that I wouldn’t keep in my home, but this isn’t a perfect world, and I’m thrilled to see an effort being made to improve the snacks we bring into the classrooms.
All this to say, if we band together, we can make a difference. I tend to wring my hands and vent about the situation, but I’m making a concerted effort to try and find ways to get involved and get the tides of change moving. I’m open to suggestions, if you have them. Has anyone been involved in a similar endeavor in their own school districts? I’d love to hear about it.