Daily Reads

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Food Police

Today we get to read about the food police.  The USDA, at the behest of Congress acting on marching orders from Mrs. Ø, have changed the rules for school lunches.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that school lunches need help.  Lots of help.  The meat tends to be what a friend in college referred to as "Grade Z but edible".  The chicken patties are made from unidentifiable bits of the chicken (which apparently is often just a version of pink goo, including bits of bone!) with too much bread.  The vegetables aren't the best quality to begin with and they tend to be over cooked.  The pizzas are either cheese (with not enough cheese and too much grease) or pepperoni (same issues) and very "eh" crusts.  The grinders are on hoagy shaped rolls of WonderBread, again using processed lunch meats from smooshed up bits of beast, such that you really can't tell the pork from the turkey by eye-balling it, and not always by taste.

But now there are new rules.  And those rules seem to dictate foods that most kids don't want to eat (the stuff they will at home if they can get desert afterwards, but only then), and the folks tasked with creating the new menus seem to have even less of a clue.

From Townhall:
Nancy Carvalho, director of food services for New Bedford Public Schools, was quoted as saying that hummus and black bean salads have been tough sells in elementary cafeterias. That means even smaller children are going through the day fighting hunger pains, which can never be considered a good thing.
Who in their right mind feeds gradeschoolers humus and black bean salads?  My children liked that sort of thing occasionally, but I doubt they'd want it at lunch, and not the way the school makes it, nor in the tiny portions the school gives out.

The article continues:
One government official tried to put the blame on the students."One thing I think we need to keep in mind as kids say they're still hungry is that many children aren't used to eating fruits and vegetables at home, much less at school. So it's a change in what they are eating. If they are still hungry, it's that they are not eating all the food that's being offered," USDA Deputy Undersecretary Janey Thornton was quoted as saying.
Ms. Thornton just put her finger on the problem. The government is trying to impose a new diet that children are not accustomed to. It’s not reasonable to expect them to either eat what the government deems healthy or go hungry.
Many will opt to go hungry, and that’s the government’s fault.
And here is where the nanny state issues start really rearing their ugly heads.  The only reason that children won't eat these meals is because their parents don't know how to feed them right at home.  Ms. Thornton is clueless.  My children got large servings of vegetables at night.  They got good meat, and pasta or potatoes.  For breakfast they got healthier cereals, like Cheerios or cornflakes or oatmeal and fruit juice.

And they still aren't scrawny, and one, the one who was the most physically active of the two, is technically obese/morbidly obese.  Her weight issues started even while she was skating.

The standard American diet (referred to in some quarters quite appropriately as SAD) is the problem.  It's not the quality of the food, as in whole grain bread vs Wonder.  It's not the quantities.  It's the high levels of carbs we have been taught to think is healthy.  It's the low levels of fat, fat which is especially needed by growing children and active teenagers.  It's the low levels of fat which make the food tasteless so we have to add tons of sugar to make it palatable.  It's the low levels of fat which leave us hungry two hours after a 400 calorie breakfast, even though 400 calories of bacon and eggs will leave us sated for four hours, even if we're being moderately active.

The other problem is the science.  Every year we are told that eating foods containing nutrient X is really, really, bad for us, and it's a wonder our ancestors survived long enough to reproduce.  And then a year or two later, we find out that, fancy that, nutrient X is actually necessary for optimal functioning and we have to start adding it back in.  This year's must eat food also turns out to be next year's you-really-need-to-cut-back-on food.  Look at butter vs. margarine.  Unless you have a lactose issue, butter has no more calories, and not having tons of weird chemicals, it's much, much healthier.  I admit we still have some "I can't believe it's not butter" or some Olio in the fridge, but that's because it's so much easier to spread than butter. But we don't use much, and I do all my cooking with lots of butter.  I eat lots of meat, and I'm discovering that as I cut carbs, the fat is actually starting to taste really good.  And guess what?  My blood pressure is back where it was 20 years ago, even if my weight isn't, though the fact that I haven't been able to cut the sugars and carbs as much as I like is probably the main culprit.  We live almost next door to a Dairy Queen, and in the summer when you don't have central air, the will power, it is weak.

My elder daughter is opting out of the school lunch her new high school provides, (they get it shipped in from a nearby school which has a kitchen) and is eating at the college cafeteria (her school is on a community college campus, and starting next semester she will be taking some classes on the college side).  She says the food is much better and not surprisingly, it really doesn't cost much more.  But I'd rather pay $4 for her to get a piece of pizza and a small salad from the salad bar than $2.65 for the standard school lunch which she won't eat most of any way.  The younger one, the one with the weight issues, tried her new school's lunch, and while she says the caf isn't bad, she prefers to make a sandwich with good quality lunch meat (like real chicken breast) than buy it.  And I can afford to do that quite easily for the cost of the school lunch.

We've already seen cases where schools have examined brown bag lunches and found them deficient, in one instance taking away a child's chicken sandwich and giving her the school's chicken nuggets and soggy vegs.  The child ate one nugget, drank the milk, threw the rest out, and was hungry for the rest of the day.  The mother was understandably irate, especially since her child eats lots of vegetables at dinner, and is in no way malnourished.  You don't actually need to eat something from every food group at every meal.  And the school had the nerve to charge her for this meal which was of far worse quality than the one she had packed, and which her child wouldn't eat.  Children are picky eaters, and if all your child will eat is a PB&J sandwich, they are better off eating that than staring at a plate of soggy fries and nuggets.

So when does the tar and feathering begin?


RG said...

Didn't the current food pyramid get started during WWII? I thought things that were less available due to rationing wound up being things you should officially eat less of anyway. Interesting how the science worked out that way, assuming I remember it right.

Library-Gryffon said...

I believe it was also designed to help prop up the grain farmers. Create demand for their product and Voila!