More Grist for the Mill

Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made ...

Image via Wikipedia

If you enjoyed the article below about the Food Marketing Institute‘s idiocy with numbers, you should really check out Tom Phillpot’s article “Mythbusting: Cheap Food Does Not Equal Higher Quality of Life,” on Grist.org. Tom expands on some of the data I was able to dig up, and adds his own thoughts on food spending vs. quality of life. It’s worth the read.

One thing he addresses that I didn’t get into much in my article was income inequality, which is a huge part of what is wrong with our food system. About two years ago, I was asked to talk to an AP Psych class about food and psychology. It was fortunately a fairly progressive teacher that asked me, because the topic pretty quickly turned to school lunches, especially free school lunches. About half the kids in that class were on free lunch. It was difficult to watch the looks on those kids faces as we went over their menu, and they realized what they were being fed, and what it meant for their performance, their health, and their futures.

These kids face enough challenges in life, but as a nation we choose to compound those challenges with cheap food that has, as Milehimama is currently blogging, amounts of sugar, fat, and additives that can have profound impacts on our children. It makes them fat. It makes them tired. It increases their chances of all kinds of health-related issues like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The shear amount of sugar is enough to give even the most focused kids a good shot at exhibiting symptoms of attention deficit disorders.

Until we, as a nation, understand that cheaper is not better when it comes to food, we will not conquer our health care crisis, our obesity epidemic, or our falling academic performance. We will not be helping our poor get out of the poverty cycle, we will be hindering them. It is, in a way, a form of unintentional (or at least, I hope it’s unintentional) discrimination that gives those already at a disadvantage an even bigger disadvantage.

I am proud to say that not only did one of the free lunch students invite me back as a guest speaker for a school project she decided to organize about nutrition, but many of those students also started bringing in their own (healthier) lunches.

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