For those who heralded the new healthy eating regulations in schools, it may come as a shock to read about the reactions of students around the country in the New York Times article.
Kids describe fruits and vegetables as "gross" and healthy portions (instead of the super-sizes we've been conditioned to consume) as "insufficient."
It is not just the students who voice these reactions. The article also highlights the perspective of teachers and principals who echo a similar sentiment.
This is not accidental. Our society and culture are geared toward the overeating of mass-produced, nutritionally bankrupt food.
The reasons for this are cultural, as well as political and economic. Changing school food, without developing an understanding of the forces impacting what we eat and buy, will never lead to the deep and lasting changes in dietary habits our society so desperately needs. The key to real change is in education. Children (or adults for that matter) aren't likely to suddenly fall in love with broccoli or celery. They must first buy into a new cultural package, one that emphasizes taking responsibility for one's health and understanding the implications of eating habits on well-being, the environment and society at large.
Teachers are the underutilized lever in this equation. Educating teachers about their own health needs, while capitalizing on their ability to act as role models and change agents, will allow us to begin to shift the culture of wellness in schools -- turning them into platforms for launching educated and empowered consumers into the marketplace. Revolutionizing the school lunch without revolutionizing nutrition education is an opportunity we can't afford to miss.
Carolyn Cohen and Deb Lewison Grant are co-founders of FoodFight. FoodFight's mission is to revolutionize the way we eat and think about food and its impact on our lives. Using schools as a platform, FoodFight arms teachers, students and school staff with the tools and knowledge they need to make healthier choices and become role models and agents of change for their families and communities.
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