Kids Eating Healthy
Last week, Full Circle participated in the first organic produce delivery to two local preschools as part of Puget Sound Food Network‘s farm fresh and healthy food for kids initiative. The positive impact was tangible as we watched young students eagerly filling their hands and mouths with fresh kale, radishes, and spring greens. Read more about the PSFN initiative and Full Circle’s participation in last week’s post.
Everybody in attendance appreciated this significant step towards improving how children eat. However, the event also further illuminated the necessity for more education before organic and healthier foods take hold of school cafeterias. Since grant money is limited, the demand for change in the way school lunches are sourced and prepared will be powerful if it comes from the kids as well as the parents.
But, before this happens, families and communities must invest in supporting the education needed to increase knowledge about the food system and the necessity for change. Only then, will a widespread difference in the lives of the children and the health and sustainability of the whole community be affected.
Understanding how the switch to local and organic foods can impact children is crucial. The necessity for more nutrients, fewer artificial ingredients and less processing are all rising concerns. Michael Pollan, in In Defense of Food, explains that calorie intake and the feeling of satiation are no longer indicators of a well-fed child. Even kids who have access to a constant supply of food are exhibiting nutrient deficiencies and symptoms of malnourishment. “When children subsist on fast food,” Pollan writes, “rather than fresh fruits and vegetables and drink more soda than milk, the old deficiency diseases return-now even in the obese.”
It is not a coincidence that deficiency rates are increasing as the amount of processed, sugar-coated and chemical filled foods in the average child’s diet are increasing. We are now spending less than 10% of the average income on food and putting in less than an hour of mealtime preparation per day. These numbers and the evidence that lines every grocery store shelf suggest that we are taking the easy but nutritionally devoid approach to feeding our children and ourselves.
“Most of the missing micronutrients,” explains Pollan, “are supplied by fruits and vegetables, of which only 20 percent of American children and 32 percent of adults eat the recommended five daily servings.”
In Eastern medicine, an excess of processed and poor quality meat products, like those frequently found in school lunches and fast food options, can be linked to aggressive and emotionally stressed behavior in children. Likewise, refined sugars in a child’s diet are said to cause mood issues and personality imbalances due to the resulting poor blood sugar regulation.
Evidence everywhere points towards the need for more fresh and preferably organic fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, cash strapped schools are not going to take the initiative to make a change alone. New regulation from the department of agriculture to support the partnership between local schools and farms is a big step towards change, but change has to be initiated at home, in the community and in the education system in order to genuinely take hold. As Alice Waters suggested, an edible education—like we have physical education—in schools and in practice at home will be a necessary step in teaching the kids and their families how to eat better.
Doing your part can be as easy as inviting your kids into the kitchen to learn about healthy foods in your home. Kid friendly recipes and foods that don’t “hide the vegetables” but instead make them fun and tasty will help build the foundation for healthier kids, the demand for healthier food at school and the spread of knowledge from one kid to another.
Check back Thursday for a great healthy snack making project and super healthy and kid friendly dinner ideas.