Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lunch Wars

My daughter started kindergarten this fall and I knew I would find some encouragement to pack her more healthy lunches after reading the most recent book I was sent for BlogHer Book Club, Amy Kalafa's Lunch Wars.  Indeed, I was right. 

As I commented on this post, I remember being in junior high and packing my lunch every day to take to school.  It always included my original combination of peanut butter and sprinkles on white bread.  I also threw in some processed food snacks and rarely added raw fruit or veggies.

At the ripe old age of five my daughter is already influenced plenty when it comes to her food choices.  If I left it up to her, of course her lunch would include a Lunchable every day, plus a few mini Snickers bars and a juice box and maybe some Doritos or fruit snacks.

I certainly don't fault her.  (Remember the twelve year old me I describe above?)  According to Kalafa, "Branding food packages with licensed characters substantially influences young children's taste preferences and snack selection and does so most strongly for energy-dense, nutrient poor foods.  These findings suggest that the use of licensed characters to advertise junk food to children should be restricted."  So why aren't they?  Ms. Kalafa and I would both like to know.  If "advertisers proudly admit to directing their work towards children to get them to go to the parents to buy the product despite the fact that the kids aren't the ones doing the shopping" then why are we letting them?

The thing is, that's just the packed lunches brought from home.  When you look at what's offered in school lunches, the findings are often worse.  Kalafa's film Two Angry Moms and then her Lunch Wars book delves into what is being offered to our kids at school and how we can advocate changes in school cafeterias.

I typically am not an activist.  I don't ever see myself really fighting for a cause.  I doubt I'll ever write a proposal to change the food service management company at my child's school.

However, I am a teacher.  Almost ninety percent of the students at my school are on a free or reduced lunch plan.  I see the kids eat pizza , french fries soaked in ranch dressing, hot Cheetos, and chocolate chip cookies every day.  I can totally get on board with "teaching food."  I am now encouraged to write a proposal for a school garden and can completely fit that in with our required annual service learning project.

But in her book Mrs. Kalafa provides so many ways to get involved in this movement that perhaps you'd find a different aspect you'd be interested in.  It's certainly worth checking into.  After all, if we don't get involved in what out kids are eating now, then we'll spend more time and money being involved in their health care later.

If you'd like to read more visit please join the discussion over at BlogHer Book Club.

This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

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