Hey guys, so for my sociology class, we had to write a Position paper. What this entails is taking a position on a sociological topic, and writing 5 pages about it. I wrote mine on school lunches because this topic of food is very important to me and I thought I would share my findings.
As processed foods increasingly become a part of the everyday diet for most Americans and many people across the world, we need to stop and think. What is actually in processed foods? Well, the answer to that question is nothing good. The reason the childhood obesity rate in the United States has risen 11% in the past 22 years (CDC) is because of these processed foods. Children are being given these processed foods in schools because they are cheaper, quicker, and just easier for the school and parents to provide. Processed foods have taken over America and have become a staple in almost every American child’s diet, hence the alarming obesity rate here. We as a Nation need to remove processed foods from children’s diets. While no one can assure that children don’t eat processed foods in the comfort of their homes, we can ensure that schools do not feed the children processed foods and for the schools that have vending machines, do not permit processed foods in these machines. While this is a stretch in happening, the health of our youth and every citizen in general needs to be a top priority so that not everyone in America ends up with Diabetes by the age of 30. As far back as I can remember, the idea of a food pyramid and eating healthy has been shoved down the throats of students across the country in order to promote healthy eating and to decrease the rate of obesity and overweight children across the country. There is one problem with this. How are we supposed to be eating healthy when our school lunches are not healthy?
Both of my parents work and it was a struggle to remember or have time to pack me a lunch everyday because of how early they had to leave so nearly every day I had a hot lunch (lunch provided by the school). These lunches ranged from corn dogs and peas which an orange slice to a pizza slice with extra cheese and fruit cup. No one (at least no one I knew) ate the peas because no one liked them. The orange slice and fruit cups were always soggy or too ripe to eat so everyone discarded the healthy options merely because they didn’t look or seem as appetizing as the pizza or corn dogs. According to livestrong.com, in 2012, the US government update the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (NSLP) which says, “Changes included counting fruits and vegetables as separate meal groups, offering fruit every day, making half of grain choices whole grains, giving different grades different meal sizes and reducing sodium and trans fat in meals.” However, even after implementing these changes, not all schools follow this rule which means that not every school gives students the healthy options the deserve and need, and not every student is able to eat a balanced diet. This rule is supposed to ensure that students across the Nation are being fed what they need to live a healthy life, not ignored by schools everywhere. I’m not one hundred percent sure whether or not my school followed/follows this rule, however I’m well aware that even though a fruit cup, or serving of peas or carrots is served to students on a daily basis, that does not guarantee that these students will be eating them. Our nation needs to not only focus on how to get all schools to give their students the recommended amount of healthy foods needed to function, but also to ensure that we focus on getting students to want to eat healthy as well. Eating healthy is a two-way street. Schools will only feed their students healthy food if they know the students will eat them and the only way for the students to be able to eat the healthy food is for the schools to provide it for them.
Another issue with the school lunch debate is that lunches have become another quarrel with numbers. The caloric limit for a school lunch, the max amount of money spent on each school lunch per student per day, etc. With the debate on numbers, it is almost as if the student does not matter in this equation. According to the culinary Arts department of the Art Institute, schools receive $2.68 per student per meal per day. While many would assume that this $2.68 is solely for the food itself, we are incorrect. “That $2.68 must cover payment not just for the food, but also any labor, facility, and structural costs a school incurs. Additionally, schools are mandated to use part of that money for milk purchases (Art Institute).” Do we not see the issue here? How is it possible to give a healthy lunch to students (31.2 million students participate in the school lunch program across the country (Art Institute)) when they must get a meal, get people to serve this food, and do so many other things with $2.68 per student? It’s not feasible. We as a nation need to get our priorities straight. People across the country are always complaining that we spend so much money on Healthcare, yet how can we reduce the costs on Healthcare when more and more people are getting diabetes from poor eating habits, which most of the time start in schools? According to Forbes, In February of 2014, the annual Healthcare spending in the United States reach a chocking high of $3.8 trillion. Not nearly is all of this money spent on overweight/obese children, however overweight and obese children lead to overweight and obese adults. When you are overweight and obese as an adult you have a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal blood fats, metabolic syndrome, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, gallstones and so many more diseases (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) , which the United States does spend millions of dollars on per year. While the Health Care spending would not plummet by a Trillion dollars, by spending more money on providing healthier food for our children, the effect would be that we would be spending less on Health Care later in life because these children would not need as much care as they would have needed if they were obese. We need to start working sooner rather than alter on addressing this issue until all 38% of people ages 619 who are obese end up with some of the above mentioned diseases and our health care spending has to continue increasing to cope with everything that healthier food could easily fix.
While there are many people who believe that school lunches need to be fixed and fixed quickly, there are also some people who believe that school lunches are fine the way that they are. These who believe that schools that make lunches more healthy are unnecessary for a variety of reasons. According to Livescience, children will throw away their fruits and vegetables no matter how many they are given, simple because they do not want them. If they do that then the whole process of getting fruits and vegetables into lunches would have been a waste. However, a study conducted by Live Science, shows that students would be eating their fruits and vegetables had they had more time to eat. They eat their favorite part of the meal first and the fruits and vegetables last, but only if they have time. With some schools giving their students only 20 minutes (and in some cases less) to eat their lunch and socialize with friends can only be assumed that not everyone will finish their lunch. The answer to this problem is easy: Rearrange the schedule so that kids have more time to eat. The more time they have to eat, the more likely they are that they will eat their vegetables. Michelle Obama, who is notorious for trying to make school lunches and children’s lives more healthy in general, has received white a hatred for this. Students across the country have created a hashtag for twitter (#ThanksMichelleObama) because they do not like the lunches they are being given. Despite all of this hate, and people thinking that children aren’t eating their fruits and vegetables, there are those students fighting back. Students are discussing that they will be eating their fruits and vegetables and telling the students using the #ThanksMichelleObama that they will thank her in 20 years when they don’t have diabetes. Michelle Obama is moving us in the right direction of getting students to believe in eating healthier, we just have to get the rest of the Nation on board as well.
As the era of processed foods become more and more prevalent, it is necessary that we stop and tell ourselves that while processed food is quick, cheap, and all around easier, it is not necessarily better for us. Students across the country are struggling with obesity due to the processed and unhealthy food they are being given at school on a daily basis. Schools need to implement more fruits and vegetables, and healthier food in general into the diet of all students because the obesity rate of children and adolescents in the United States is on the rise and needs to start going down soon before everyone in America is overweight or obese and has diabetes. There are many rules in place to try to ensure healthy eating in schools but these rules are not always followed. We all need to work together to promote healthy eating, lengthen the time of lunch for students, and show the government that healthy eating will benefit us all in the long run.
Well, hope you all enjoyed that and that you learned something
Talk to you all soon