I recently saw the new Michael Moore documentary, "Where to Invade Next", a humorous and enlightening depiction of what we're missing Stateside. Things like a real paid vacation, universal healthcare, free education, gender equality, and REAL FOOD. I'm not here to argue the politics on whether or not you agree with providing students the right to a free education or a universal healthcare system, go watch the movie, but I am here to talk about our incredibly sad current state of food.
Teach Your Children Well
Moore traveled to France to sample the kids' lunch menus, and Merde, they are doing something right over there. School cafeterias hire a chef, have monthly planning meetings with the staff, nutritionist, and parents in order to create a meal that will teach children how to eat well, and healthy. Lunch is treated as another school subject, with an hour of time saved in order to slowly and intentionally eat their gourmet food.
They have 4-course meals, with cheese plates and roasted lamb, hors d'oeuvres and freshly baked bread--- all real food. Compare this to the slop that is often served in American public schools with generations of American kids being raised by Coca-cola and Kraft, it's a surprise many of us crave anything other than Funyuns and Doritos as we age into adulthood. When I was in school, it was more common to see students eating a slice of pizza with soda, french fries, and donuts than it was seeing a student eating anything similar to a salad. Green was not a common color in the school cafeteria.
Learn How To Eat
In France, kids are taught how to serve one another, how to eat using silverware (real silverware, not plastic), and only water is served (not pop). Their taste buds are being trained to be more sophisticated and balanced, thus leading to healthier food choices. Additionally, when kids are taught to have a nurturing and positive relationship with food, there is no need for diets further down the road, and disordered eating becomes something of a rarity.
Why do our kids only want pizza and French fries? Because we only feed them pizza and French fries. You know what French children don't eat? French fries.
The Cost Of Good Eating
Many might think that the cost of serving gourmet school lunches would be outrageous, but this is not the truth. The French law allows municipalities to set their own prices, but also allows for sliding scale, and caps prices--thus creating equal access to good food. Prices vary, but the average price per meal paid by parents is $3 and $3.50, as compared to $2.70 for the SNAP-funded meals in the US. We're not talking outrageous sums here, we are talking pennies.
Eat Well Now, Spend Less Later
Kids deserve better, more nutritious food. Nutrition is the most important factor when it comes to a child's health, setting the groundwork for their future. You can't have health, wellness, and impactful learning without nutritious food. If we want future generations to prosper and thrive, we need to feed them proper nutrition. We must teach them how to positively and healthfully interact with food and learn to appreciate what goes into their bodies. Eating is something we all have to do for the entirety of our lives, let's make it a priority! Think of nutritious lunch meals as a preventative health measure, driving down healthcare costs for future generations of Americans.
We have a health crisis in the United States, one that is dominated by processed foods, lack of nutritional awareness, and lack of concern for younger generations. If we want to create real change, let's start with what we put in our children's bodies. This is more than just a call for better quality food, this is a call for better learning, better health and better prevention. We shouldn't have to wait until adulthood to learn how to eat well---the excuse of children not liking 'sophisticated' foods just doesn't hold up when you see how the rest of the world eats.