A Fact: We have been forming children’s taste with juice in a box, flavored milks, hamburgers, hot dogs, nuggets, pizza, bagels, cookies, fruit leather, cheese roll ups, microwave popcorn, pop tarts, tacos, and chips. Should we be surprised if now that’s what they want?
A Bitter Pill to Swallow: Motivated by unexamined convenience and misplaced financial incentives we have overfed children and fostered unhealthy foods. Waking up to a monster of our own creation we cannot blame others.
A Wake Up Call: As citizens, teachers, parents, physicians, politicians, we’ve overlooked the obvious, education is powerful. Did we sleep through the whole junk food education?
A Reality: The notion that childhood obesity is an enemy to be fought prevents us from seeing the conditions breeding the problem and how we can resolve to change them. Ha, ha. No, really, that is all it takes... well, and hard work... OK, we also need lots of people willing to invest time and energy in a systemic solution. Oh wait, but what do we do with the war against obesity? It’s giving jobs to so many.
Past the Impasse: Imagine an elementary school with a food lab where children learn to cook nourishing foods.
A Better Future: Let children touch, smell, measure, foods and they will become familiar. Let them combine rice, beans, and kale; bok choy with lentils; dates, oats, quinoa; and cut into firm juicy fruits like persimmon, plums, and pears, and grow discerning adults.
Let children season their cooking with cinnamon, ginger, cilantro, lemon, basil, and cloves, and they will develop wholesome memories of touch, taste, and smell.
Surround children with the aroma of fresh cantaloupe, let them stain their fingers with blueberries, discover the slippery white seeds inside okra, and they will develop a discriminating taste rooted in their own experience.
So simple... Now familiar to them, these foods, become true choices whether in the supermarket, the cafeteria line, or at home.
A Bright Reality: Refer to the Food is Elementary curriculum created in 2001 by Antonia Demas PhD. It is used today in 1000 schools across the USA.
P.S. We cannot simply eat more fruits and vegetables. We need to trade in the unhealthy foods. Otherwise this simplistic slogan, will lead us to more obesity, just do the math.
Ana M. Negrón MD