But is the government out to get us, does a school have the right to tell us what and how we should feed our kids? Well, as a mother that prides herself on what she feeds her children, we all know I would stand at the head of the pack when facing a homemade lunch ban at our school. I even write a blog about lunch packing, called Colorado Bento. I have no fears that this would become a reality in my community in Colorado because we just don't face the same issues a school does in an impoverished inner city neighborhood. Which also means, all you suburban moms that freaked out by the sensationalized story, can breath a sigh of relief today when you cut the crust off of Jane's organic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Here's the reality of the situation:
- The ban is a school based decision, with the principal calling the shots, NOT the government.
- The school has a free/reduced lunch rate of 85%. I worked in a school that was 65% free/reduced lunch and I can't quite imagine the pressure on such a school with an 85% demographic, I'm just going to call it the entire school because I am sure the other 15% are not middle class or wealthy.
- The ban has been in affect for SIX years, so apparently it's working. If it wasn't there would be change.
- Wrap your brain around this, breakfast or lunch at school may be the only real meal a child is fed all day. Which means Monday mornings don't quite come fast enough for children living in poverty. I know this first hand. It's heartbreaking to see.
- When living in poverty many factors affect how you can feed your family, including access to fresh and affordable produce, plus lack of education of how to get the most nutrition out of the smallest budget. If my family is living in poverty, do I have a car? Does the market in walking distance offer quality food? Please understand, I'm not pointing fingers here at this particular community, these factors are an American issue in general, we all could use some shopping, cooking, and nutrition education.
- Bans are not made on a whim, when you see children bringing a brown bag filled with a bag of chips, some candy, and a soda for lunch, it's easy to feel defeated and outraged. You know they deserve better. In this case, Principal Elsa Carmona feels like she is giving the children what they deserve, a healthier meal than they are being given from home.
Grassroots education with programs like community farms make a huge impact on how children are fed, plus they take a wealth of first hand knowledge with them through life. Programs like Farm To School are making it happen. There are thousands of people volunteering their time and donating money to help keep school gardens afloat in America. The trend is on the rise and the benefits will pay off immeasurably.
We certainly have an uphill battle with regards to nutrition, especially with leaps in the rise of obesity rates, and access to heathy affordable food in America. This issue is not going to disappear in our lifetime. I will be the first to say, the health issues Americans face today will not go away until our government stops putting corporations first. The top food producers in the United States are feeding us products that are laden with genetically modified corn and soy, chemicals, and toxic additives. Does a company that produces genetically modified crops (which causes inflammation in our body) and a pharmaceutical drug that reduces inflammation, really have our best interest at the core of their values? Is an $11.9 billion dollar profit forecast going to change their ways? NO. Could such a corporation use their wealth and power to truly change the American food system for the better? Yes.
I can't tell you how often I dream about America being a place that puts the health of the citizens before a corporate profit margin. I will continue to dream and fight. Maybe we should shake hands and join this fight for change together.
On a related note, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution season 2 starts tonight. Tune in to see what he is doing to bring about change, I certainly will.