A Case of Acute Green Confusion

See entire November 9, 2011 newsletter including guest schedule and videos

(of the green, leafy & peachy keen kind)

WARNING: The contents of this newsletter may be hazardous to your mental health. It took me hours to write because I am honestly and truly in a total stupor and an agitated state about the entire subject. It’s about our children and their health and welfare. It’s about setting aside greed and profits and asking the village to raise the children. At the end of the day, I have to ask myself are we the people or are we the sheeple?

Cause of agitation: How can moving to healthier school lunches for our childrenset off a HUGE dispute? How can it possibly be a cause for debate let alone HUGE dispute?

Background for this RANT: According to several articles I read, the government has proposed changes in school lunch programs to make them more nutritious. They want to cut back on potatoes and add more fresh peaches, apples, spinach and broccoli. And hold the salt. Such heresy! Less pizza and fries you say?

Shockingly (sarcasm strongly intended), these changes, the FIRST in 15 years to the $11 BILLION school-lunch program, companies including Coca Cola, Del Monte and the makers of frozen pizza (should not even be considered food) and French fries, have a huge stake in the new guidelines and are arguing that it would raise the cost of meals and call for food that too many children just will not eat. (So I guess as the adults in charge, we should just keep on feeding them frozen pizza and fries – yes?)

Now, a few random, pesky facts for you to ponder:

  • Fact: At this writing, a quarter-cup of tomato paste on a pizza is considered a vegetable.
  • Fact: A third of American children are categorized as obese or overweight.
  • Fact: Roughly 40 percent of the calories children eat are consumed in the school lunch period.

Here’s an encouraging quote (again, heavy sarcasm) from one of the articles I read: “The battle is shaping up as a contentious and complicated fight involving lawmakers from farm states and large low-income urban areas that rely on the program, which fed some 30 million children last year with free or subsidized meals. Food companies have spent more than $5.6 million so far lobbying against the proposed rules.” Battle? Over more nutritious school lunches? Is anyone thinking rotten potatoes or greed or smelling money instead of fresh peaches? Am I going to have to start an “Occupy Del Monte” movement?

Another shocker for you to absorb: A group of farm-state senators have already succeeded in blocking an Agriculture Department plan to limit the amount of starchy foods in school meals, and are now hoping to win a larger victory. A VICTORY OVER WHAT? This is the point at which I begin to shout – a victory over feeding our kids too much starch? A victory for potatoes? A victory for obese kids? Please tell me what victory we could be celebrating here.

As to the “raise the cost of meals” fear put out there by those companies profiting from the status quo, the Agriculture Department said the proposed rules would add about $6.8 billion over the next five years, about 14 cents to the cost of a school lunch. I realize I may be mixing apples and missiles here but what is the WEEKLY cost of the war in Afghanistan? Oh, that’s right – 2 BILLION A WEEK. But silly me, this would improve the health and nutrition of OUR children, in OUR country, in OUR schools. What was I thinking?

So as an Irishman who loves potatoes, who can devour a bag of fries in nano-seconds, and who can’t think of a potato I have ever met that I didn’t like, do I have anything against them? No – but limit my intake I must, I must!

But why, you say? I want to live long and prosper! According to a Harvard School of Public Health study, published this year in The New England Journal of Medicine, starchy carbohydrates like those in potatoes are responsible for many of the nation’s health problems, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. French fries and potato chips are the worst uses of the potato, but even boiled potatoes contribute to weight gain, the study found. So, let ’em eat potatoes – they don’t know any better any way. After all, they are children for heaven’s sake!

Here’s the quote that may have put me over the green edge: “The food industry agrees that eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing salt is a good thing. It says it has developed healthier foods over time to make school lunches more nutritious. But they say the government’s proposals go too far too quickly.” A GOVERNMENT proposal going too far too quickly? And who is “it?” What does that even mean – the food industry has developed healthier foods? And should we just slow down growing overweight kids and phase in thinner ones over time? Am I just being obtuse or missing someone’s point?

And the unbiased, totally pure, selfless, “thinking only of the health of our children” quote? Brace yourself. The National Potato Council said the proposal to offer fewer weekly servings of potatoes in favor of other vegetables and fruits was OVERLY RESTRICTIVE. “Everyone thinks that the only thing kids eat in school are French fries,” said John Keeling, the council’s executive vice president and chief executive. “But 90 percent of the potatoes served in schools are baked, boiled or mashed.” And I guess that helps with how much starch is in them – right?

For the record and as God is my judge – my children and grandchildren eat spinach, broccoli, apples and fresh peaches. There’s no disputing that.

I feel so much better now.