Is food the problem?

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The following is an interesting read about students in Great Britain: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/may/07/body-image-anxiety-primary-school-pupils.

The article looks at efforts by a couple of teachers to help students. These teachers determined that by age 10, one-third of girls and about one-fifth of boys say that their body’s appearance has become their number one worry. Age 10 was also the average age when children first started dieting.

I never trust social science numbers. Unless I can see the assumptions and methodology behind those numbers for myself, I won’t accept a social science statistic as any form of gospel. But the article’s statistics seem plausible. Observations about the effects of photoshopping also ring true.

I think we are taking the wrong road, though. We are attacking food, reinforcing the concept of food as the enemy at a time when students already are developing a love/hate relationship with food because of its possible effect on body image. As we regulate school breakfasts and lunches to an ever greater degree, I believe schools end up creating lunches that send students home hungry. In many homes now, both parents are working when those students get home. I’d bet the feast begins the moment those kids walk in the door, a barf-worthy extravaganza of Takis, chips, pop tarts, cereal, and snack food.

Instead of attacking food, I am convinced the government ought to come at the growing childhood obesity problem from the other direction: Let’s attack lack of exercise instead. P.E. has been curtailed across the nation. Most children no longer have P.E. daily. No federal law requires American schools to provide physical education to students. Only six states — Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, and North Carolina,  — hit the target of 150 minutes per week suggested by the National Association of Sports and Physical Education, according to Bonnie Rochman, writing for Time.  We have dropped the physical education ball.

Children of previous generations ate a lot of junk. They ate burgers, fries and fried chicken in those school-lunches of yore, along with pizza and tater tots. Those kids were nevertheless thinner and healthier than kids today despite the fact that sometimes they went home to a meal’s worth of milk and cookies.

Why? They had real P.E. They did real exercise. Being in better shape, they naturally played more sports, both in school and recreationally.

Eduhonesty: Rather than make school lunches into diet food, we ought to push mandatory, daily P.E. If the government wants an agenda, they should try encouraging parents to take their kids ice skating, swimming or dancing.

If anyone wants a project to take on, go take some pictures of food wastage at the end of our new “healthy” school lunches. Photograph those trash cans and the unemptied trays sitting in front of kids who are picking at their food. Photograph and poll the kids about how they like the new lunches.

You can lead a kid to whole grain pasta with barely-salted red sauce and mushy green beans. You can’t make him eat.