Monday, April 19, 2010

Highly Irritated.

The other day, on Facebook, I saw in my news feed that both Elaine and another of our mutual friends had signed Jamie Oliver's petition to support better food in schools. I am really enjoying and admiring Jamie and what he is trying to do via his show so I signed the petition too and posted it to my Facebook profile. Then I watched as that post spread like wildfire and was re-post by a handful of my friends. I liked seeing something just a tad more important than "I only listen to voicemail to get rid of the little icon" circulate through my different groups of pals.

And then I was totally and completely enraged
by someone I have never met and the
comment she posted in response to one of my friends who had re-posted the petition. This person wrote:

Um, we're getting a little to [sic] over-policing with the foods these days. I think way too many in our society simply blame everyone but themselves for the obesity problems. Removing vending machines from schools, banning trans yai, people just need to stop taking the easy way out with feeding their kids too much cheap fast food, giving them the unhealthy lunchables or overprocessed foods and then blame the weight problems on schools other other public sectors so we'll waste our tax dollars to make it to costly or challenging for restaurants, school districts and other food industry stakeholders to operate because they're being over-regulated. It's so easy to get on the bandwagon when you're either a wealthy celebrity or from the opposite end of the demographic spectrum who benefit from our tax dollars bearing the higher costs of yet more government intervention or subsidies. Why don't they promote just being able to make wise choices without tabooing foods that most of us should know to eat in health portions or frequencies?? Brain-up, world!!!...

Did I say enraged? I wanted to post back SO BADLY but I didn't because I don't know this person. Then I realized...I have a blog! I can say whatever I want!! So here it is.

Yes, Jamie Oliver is a celebrity. Yes, he is wealthy. But you cannot in the same breath blame him for being too rich and famous to be serious about what he's doing while at the same time refuse to understand the type of financial situation that drives someone to feed their children $1 McDonald's hamburgers and have them eat 2 (usually free) meals a day at school. I reject outright the argument that we have to feed school children what amounts to nutritional napalm because otherwise taxes will rise. I reject anyone who suggests that you can get anything healthy, EVER, out of a vending machine. And actually, Jamie Oliver is doing EXACTLY what she suggests - empowering people to make healthy choices and teaching them to cook real food for their families. Her post really represents the type of can-do attitude that gets stuff done - oh, its too complicated, taxes will rise, we're policing food, let's ignore the problem. How can this be your your solution? How is your thought process not....before I reject this outright, is there a way to do this within budget and so called nutritional standards so that our kids are healthier and they know a tomato when they see it?

Sorry...I told you I was enraged.

Here are some
CDC facts to chomp on, via Jamie Oliver.
  • 68% of American adults are overweight
  • One in three people are obese.
  • Second only to smoking, something almost equal to leprosy these days, obesity is America's leading source of premature death.
  • Obesity related issues account for nearly 10% of US health care spending - what about those tax dollars now?
  • Nearly one in three American children are obese - about 23 million kids.
  • Today's generation of children are predicted to be the first who will die at a younger age than their parents due to obesity related health problems. Doesn't this scare anyone else? Especially when it is preventable? Even if its not your kid?
  • 31 million kids eat school lunch - more than 60% of those meals are provided at no cost to kids and their families.
  • The Federal government reimburses schools $0.25 per lunch and $2.68 for meals that are provided for free. About $1 of that is spent on the actual food.
  • The School Nutrition Association estimates it costs more like $3 to produce lunch but schools have to find the extra money, and often it comes from the sale of nutritionally poor foods sold through vending machines and snack lines.
  • The federal school meals budget is $11.9 billion a year. By comparison, health care spending on obesity is already $147 billion.
I don't know why Jamie Oliver is doing what he's doing. I don't know if he's doing it the right way or the wrong way (although I tend to think what he's doing is working). I don't have children but you can be assured that if I did they wouldn't be eating school lunch and you can bet your bottom dollar that I know how lucky I am to be able to afford that choice.

I do know that this Brit has raised more awareness about this issue in this country then anyone in recent memory and I do know that there has to be a better solution than french fries as vegetables and pizza for breakfast. I have always been afforded the luxury of 3 healthy, home-cooked meals a day. Breakfast was a sit down affair, my mom MADE us drink our milk (thanks Mama!) and eat our oatmeal. Even when mom stopped making our lunches in middle school, we had to make our own lunch to take to school and dinner was always delicious, accompanied by a salad and made with lots of love (thanks Papa!). I know a lot kids are not as lucky as we were in this regard but it doesn't mean their parents love them any less or that they don't deserve the exact same thing we had. We can blame parents for being lazy or absent but that doesn't help the kids who are eating this crap everyday. These are little humans and just because their families need some help doesn't mean they don't deserve the same healthy, nutritious meals that I got when I was a kid and I am positive that the country who put a man on the moon can figure out a way to do this according to "nutritional guidelines" and without breaking the bank. I for one am ready to work towards that possibility instead of throwing up roadblocks such as over-regulation and concerns over rising taxes. Saying people should make better food choices is ignoring that fact that many people feel they can't afford or don't know how to make those choices.

If you need any kind of motivation, I encourage you to check out
Food, Inc, airing on PBS TONIGHT at 9pm. This movie will change your attitude towards food and make you think about some pretty important things. And, to bring it back to where it all started, if you feel so inclined, sign Jamie's petition. Petitions don't solve the world's problems, they don't address every detail. But if you agree that we can do better by this country's children, this might be a great place to start.

That is all. Thanks for listening.


  1. well said, Us Guys. I am amazed that anyone can find fault with what Jamie is doing. we have let the processed food industry convince us that we have no time to prepare our own food. We settle for the chain restaurants terrible tasting and terrible for you offerings. We should demand to be treated better! Kids can learn to enjoy healthy food and un-sugared milk. The alternative is a disaster. And it is in their own best interest to do so. Stand up and have your say.

  2. The thing that strikes me about this person's comment right away is his or her ignorance about the current state of agricultural subsidies in this country (something that watchers of Food Inc. will learn about to some extent) which lead to the over-production of calorie-dense, nutrient-low "food products" that find their way into vending machines and school lunches.

    The author's libertarian perspective assumes (quite wrongly) that government intervention into food policy represents the birth of "big government" programs that Tea Party types interpret as the first step toward Stalinism. When he or she misses is the fact that this intervention wouldn't be necessary if these subsidies weren't already creating a food system that encourages American kids to eat themselves to death. So even if you buy into this Glenn Beckist regulation=socialism bull, you should be arguing that our "big government" should stop giving artificial incentive to produce corn and soy.

    But of course the underlying ideology here begets massively stupid positions on a range of issues beyond food policy - healthcare and financial regulation being two big examples.

    Hey, now I'm angry too!

  3. Great post Janean. It's hard for me to watch Food Revolution because my jaw drops and I start shaking. Like how french fries fulfill the vegetable quota for lunchtime and a veggie slaw doesn't. ARG!

  4. Thanks for sharing! I found your site through 30 bucks a week.
    I don't want to add to the debate, I just like to read about everyone's opinion ;)

  5. Good post. I think Phil nailed it.

    I'd just like to add that the author of the comment's heart seems to be in the right place, e.g. he or she does acknowledge that people need to be willing to take personal responsibility for making better choices about their nutrition.

    However, the commenter oversimplifies by concluding that this is an issue of government regulation, before going on to express concern that things are being made too difficult for "food industry stakeholders"... These are two of the main forces responsible for the backward situation that our country's agriculture is in today. The other responsible party is consumers, especially those of us who lend support to a flawed system of mass food production and distribution by willingly participating in it rather than taking the initiative to seek and choose better alternatives whenever possible.

    Jenean's mom was able to make good choices for her kids' diets on a tight budget, and so can anyone else if they put in the effort to learn how. This is why it is important to lend support to those like Jaime Oliver or Michael Pollan who are doing good work to spread awareness about these issues so that people will be empowered with the willingness and the knowledge to make good choices for themselves and their families in whatever way their means might allow.

    Choosing the food we buy and eat is one of our most powerful opportunities to influence our country and its economy in a real way and on a daily basis. As Pollan said in a recent interview with Time, "you get to vote with your fork three times a day. That's a lot more votes then you get in any other realm of life, and we have already seen that getting that vote right, even once a day, makes a difference."

  6. jus talked to the man who farms the ground around our house. He is furious about Food, Inc. If we want to make changes we need to involve these food producers. when your livelihood is threatened you will react much differently to a situation. Let them know we are not trying to put them out of business, and we may be able to make headway easier

    also, producers say we cannot produce enough food in a humane manner. Here's a thought, not original: what about if we ate less! and what if the food tasted better!