We are here this morning to discuss a recent ad which asks for a ban of processed meats from school menus.
Q. Why are processed meats like hot dogs and sausage patties the focus of attack?
A. The American Institute for Cancer Research, in their updated report 2007, states that there is convincing evidence linking processed meats and colon cancer and calls for avoiding them. Any amount of processed meat in the diet increases the risk for colon cancer. Chronic illnesses like cancer are the result of chronic insult.
Q. Why now?
A. The Cancer Project this year conducted a poll across the nation and found that Philadelphia, among many other schools, includes processed meats regularly in their breakfast and lunch menus.
Q. What are schools to do?
A. Schools could decide to nourish kids, and not just feed them. Health is a national treasure.
Q. But schools are pressured to balance so many financial decisions...
A. This is a valid but indefensible point. Schools need to bring feeling value to their budget, and decide that money decisions will always follow a responsibility to the children. Schools need to free their dietitians and nutritionists from commercial restraints. Our schools need to look at government subsidies and snatch the better choices, as many schools are doing. And schools could bring balance to many a children's life by including more foods that are protective of health.
Q. Would you give examples of foods that are protective?
A. Berries, beans, and brassica are three such foods. Others are whole grains like oats, corn, rice, quinoa, millet, and not just wheat!
Q. What are brassica?
A. This is a large and familiar group of foods previously known as cruciferous, which include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, together with Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and more.
Q. This TV ad has a lot of people scared, what do you say to them?
A. First: Hot dogs are not the only "party food" turned routine. For example: ice cream, pizza, sodas, and chips have joined the ranks. If processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, pepperoni, cured ham had continued to be used on occasion as party food, this conversation would not be taking place. But they are now staple in school, which is a grave insult leveled against the health of our children. It is not just in the school, these convenience foods are used regularly in many homes increasing the children's exposure to them and increasing the risk for obesity and diabetes at an early age.
Second: Many children do not eat enough amounts of protective foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Overfed and under active children are increasingly vulnerable to breaks in their health. And we adults are responsible.
Third: I would ask parents to look into why these foods were added to the breakfast and lunch menu at their school and ask what it would take to remove them.
Q. Would you like to end with a few words?
A. By being lazy and not seeking the full story, we allow ourselves to be jostled by every bit of news. Media sound bites, often in contradictory succession, do not present a full picture. Our challenge is to become informed and involved. Parents and students, together with administrators and teachers, create a healthy mix that could represent children above all other special interests. Who is on your list? Call that person. Practice how to start your conversation. Do some research. How we got here is key as to how we can get out. Act now.
(see TheTimes-Tribune.com End subsidies for Unhealthy Foods by guest columnist Ana M. Negrón MD published Monday, October 27, 2008 for full article)