[PHNUTR-L] “Will Trade Children’s Health for Lunch Money”
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD
fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com
Thu Jun 22 10:49:55 PDT 2006
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Chef Ann Cooper is a renegade lunch lady who works to transform
cafeterias into culinary classrooms for students - one school lunch at a
time. She brings you information to learn about the importance of
changing the way America feeds its children.
« “Will Trade Children’s Health for Lunch Money”
‘Fluff’ Flies in Massachusetts School Lunch Debate »
June 22nd, 2006
Ann Cooper and Kate Adamick
Last week, a New York State Assembly bill designed to combat childhood
obesity by restricting the availability of foods of no or minimal
nutritional value in vending machines, school stores, and a la carte
luncheon lines on school grounds or property, was held in committee,
effectively killing the bill for the session. This news was met with
appalling glee by many, including the New York branch of the School
Nutrition Association (NYSSNA), – whose stated mission is to “To advance
good nutrition for all children” – which lobbied relentlessly for the
While the bill was not perfect, its passage would have guaranteed every
New York child a safer school food environment than currently exists
today. In an era in which The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has
estimated that one in three U.S. children born in the year 2000 will
develop Type II Diabetes by age 18, working to defeat a bill that would
have helped remedy this epidemic is nothing less than unconscionable.
Some have argued that such legislation by the State is unnecessary in
light of the new local wellness policies, required by federal law to be
in place in each school district by the 2006-2007 school year. This
reasoning is shrewdly misleading, however, given that very few local
wellness policies contain the measurable nutrition standards set forth
in the defeated bill, and instead use vague terms such as “reduce” or
“lower” when referring to permissible levels of hydrogenated oils, high
fructose corn syrup and sodium. Ultimately, this means that little will
be done in school districts in which the local bureaucrats or food
service management companies neither wish to expend the effort, nor
incur the expense, necessary to effect meaningful change.
Do we need to go further than this bill? Yes, absolutely!
Schoolchildren today are often herded into crowded, deafening rooms to
eat their meals off paper plates on Styrofoam trays with plastic
“sporks” in less than 20 minutes – an environment in which no one would
willingly choose to dine. But the biggest problem with school food is
not that the kids aren’t being served family-style meals on china
plates. The biggest problem is that kids are being served – and sold —
toxic processed “foods” in an educational environment intended to
nurture their minds and bodies. Schools nationwide are “Drug-Free
Zones,” yet we allow chemical-laden foods in our schools on a daily
basis. Not until these products are removed from the school venue (which
this bill would have gone a tremendous distance in accomplishing), can
we focus our attention on other critical matters such as local
procurement, preferences for organic foods and reintroduction of dining
as a truly social experience. As it now stands, the death of this bill
will enable most school food service programs in New York to continuing
killing the kids, however unintentionally.
Of course, in a system in which school food service is typically
unfunded by the local school district and is often contracted out to
food service management companies that profit from the sale of highly
processed, prepackaged food products, the ardent lobbying against a bill
that would have prohibited sales of these products to our children comes
as no surprise. But when adults willingly spend $4 on a morning cup of
coffee or an afternoon bottle of beer, it’s at best shameful — if not
abusive — to willingly sacrifice our children’s health and well-being –
and, ultimately, years off their lives – simply in order to balance the
school food service budget.
If those of us who call ourselves “school food advocates” – including
the NYSSNA – are not willing to walk the talk, how will we be able to
look our children in the eye someday when they come to us, suffering
from Type II Diabetes and a host of other life-threatening diet-related
illnesses, and ask us “How could you?”
When this bill is reintroduced next year, we sincerely hope that
everyone will support it
. . . for the sake of our kids.
Kate Adamick is a New York City-based food systems consultant
specializing in school food reform, and the former director of New York
City’s SchoolFood Plus Initiative.
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD < fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com >
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