No, the initiative implemented by the Obama Administration was not perfect and there were places I'd have loved to wade in and make changes. However, the overall movement was in the right direction.
I have been working in the community for years advocating for better choices for children and the food environment makes a HUGE difference. Massive!
Reading the article makes me even sadder. Let me pull out the bits that got me the most!
1. A childhood diet high in processed foods has been associated with a higher likelihood of depression and anxiety later in life. A poor diet in the first years of a child’s life can also increase their risk for behavioural and emotional problems.
But some research suggests making healthy diet changes can effectively prevent some depressive episodes, and that eating lots of fruit, vegetables, fish, and whole grains can reduce a person’s risk for depression overall.
- From everything that I've studied this is true. And this is probably the most important reason for ensuring all children are given excellent choices. Especially as such a high percentage of the overall diet is consumed at school.
2. Kids are now eating more vegetables and taking in less saturated fat at school (though the healthier lunches did take some getting used to).
- It's so exciting to see kids eating more veggies. Who wouldn't want this?!?! And how awesome for the parents. Would it convince every selective eater - no. But that constant exposure is still a really positive thing.
3. Whole grains (which are now going to be cut back) are important for helping young, growing minds “feel full longer so they stay alert to concentrate at school.”
In contrast, refined grains, which have been stripped of their nutrient-rich outer shells, get processed more quickly in the body and turned into sugar, which can cause people to overeat and promote weight gain.
Long-term studies have shown that more refined carbohydrate consumption can also lead to diabetes and heart disease. Eating whole grains, on the other hand, can prevent these problems.
- Children do adjust to eating whole grains rather than refined grains and it's often a small step but an important one.
4. In August, reporting by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organisation covering inequality in education, suggested that kids from low-income families living along the Mississippi Delta are genuinely excited about the food they’re fed in free breakfast and lunch programs at school, such as apples and carrots.
According to the report, Mississippi resident Betty Newson said her grandson “might get more the food he really needs” at school, but not at home.
- If schools are offering reasonable options that can be critically important for children who don't have access to nutritious alternatives elsewhere.
5. Researchers say the eating patterns that kids establish early in life typically follow them into adulthood.
As a group of Canadian researchers put it in 2007, “if children are to learn to prefer and select healthy foods, they need early, positive, repeated experiences with those foods.”
One study showed that simply making lunch line offerings more nutritious (by serving more salads, fruits, and sandwiches instead of tacos and hamburgers) led students to consume 28% fewer grams of unhealthy food.
Considering that 20% of kids eat breakfast at school, and more than 90% get lunch there, the grains and sugar preferences they develop in the cafeteria likely shape the nutrition choices they will make for life.
- The food environment, the food environment, the food environment.
Judith is passionate about good food and is even more passionate about enabling other people to enjoy the wide variety of fresh food available today.