Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's All in the Education

Illustration by Richard Turtletaub; graphic by The New York Times
The secret to a healthy lifestyle: early intervention.
It's no secret that people are most susceptible to influences at a young age. In an effort to take advantage of this, many schools have created programs and rules regarding food policy. Some programs will be more successful than others, however.
The federal government wants to ban all candy and soft drinks from schools and put more nutritious choices into the vending machines. A noble idea indeed, but when you can't even sell cupcakes for new uniforms, this seems a bit extreme. Kids always want something more if they can't have it. Will completely banning candy be a good idea if little Bobby will devour Skittles every time he can get his hands on them? Moderation is the message that needs to be driven home. We can't eliminate only soda or candy and expect to see changes. The proposed tax on soda might even worsen the situation. If someone wants to buy soda, they are going to buy it regardless, and the extra money that paid for the tax might lead to cuts in produce purchases.
Joshua Bright for The New York Times
There are better ways to get kids excited about eating healthy. Around the world, many countries have started school gardens to teach kids about where healthy food comes from. This provides a diversion from the indoor routine of classes (always a plus) and a way for students to feel proud about their work. One high school in Brooklyn has taken this to the next level. Not only do they maintain a 2500 sq. ft. organic garden, they also offer a class much like ours, reading Michael Pollan and taking trips to local farms. This type of education is sorely needed in a location like this, a "food desert", where most families are low-income and many kids resort to fast food options. As the teacher comments, "It’s really hard to cement in their heads that there are other options to industrial food.” A challenge, no doubt, but we are slowly making progress.

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