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 fats…ai 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.