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Country Music and ConAgra -- Ending Childhood Hunger?

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Watching television this past Sunday felt like being a bit schizophrenic.

Early in the evening, we watched nutrition genius and pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig talk about the devastating effects of sugar on our health, including the newest information that links sugar consumption with increased risk of cancer.

With the result of his research at the University of California, Robert Lustig refers to sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other processed sweeteners (along with processed foods in general) as toxic and major contributors to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. New research being done by nutritional biologist Kimber Stanhope calls into question the wisdom that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, showing that the quality of the calorie means a great deal to our health as well as the number of calories.

It was most definitely food for thought.

After that, the Academy of Country Music awards began with the usual fanfare and over-produced musical numbers. Things took a more serious turn when it was announced that ACM was teaming up with ConAgra's campaign to end childhood hunger, "Child Hunger Ends Here."

A noble cause to be sure, but one look at the kinds of foods produced by ConAgra-owned companies and you'll see it's anything but a win-win for our kids, the environment and our collective health. It's a collection of companies who produce nothing more than processed junk food masquerading as good for us. One look at the ingredients and you will see a laundry list of items that have little to do with nature or food, more like chemical brews.

Look, the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign is a great idea. The fact that more than 16 million children have less food than they need in this country is nothing short of criminal. But selling cheaply produced, processed foods to us, especially to our underserved, is not really the answer. Selling them foods loaded with the very sugars deemed "toxic" by experts can't be the way to get our kids fed.

We need to feed them well... not just feed them.

And while I can hear the chorus of voices yelling that eating well is not affordable and we should just focus on getting food -- any food -- into the poorest among us, I will stand my ground. Just because someone is underserved doesn't mean they have to subsist on junk food loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other chemical additives that make the food about as removed from being real food as one can imagine.

I know that ConAgra is not necessarily selling this food directly to hungry children, but they do sell it so the underserved communities and encourage us to buy more of this junk to end childhood hunger because they contribute money to the cause. It's a bit insidious, in my view.

Buy our junk food to help feed the poor.

As the underserved struggle with access to fresh foods at affordable prices, is the answer to simply sell them more processed food? Is this the way to create an environment that encourages healthy eating and enough food for all of us?

Not in my view.

While a noble cause, there has to be a better way to ensure that each child in this country goes to bed with a full belly... and not full of frozen dinners, canned macaroni or processed meals that may feed them calories, but will not help to make them into healthy, productive adults.

They, just like the rest of us, have been addicted to fat, sugar and salt and it will take time, effort and energy to change the tastes of this country and begin to turn away from 89-cent meals of popcorn chicken and spaghetti and toward whole, unprocessed food.

But no one said it would be easy. We need to teach our children healthy habits so they can grow into healthy adults and create a healthy future.

Remember, it takes a village to raise a child, and this big village known as the United States can do better by its kids than feeding them cheap, processed foods.

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