For starters…have you made my ChocoDot Pumpkin cake yet? I ask because I’m baking one right now for a school event this weekend. The house smells so good and I’m already thinking that I have to make one for our family for this weekend. Too hard to just give away!
As you read yesterday, I went for a brief stay to a camp for my daughter’s class. It’s their classroom away from their classrooms. Nature, science, team-building, independence…all those are on the docket for learning this week. Good stuff, without a doubt.
As I was only there for two days and it was my first time, I was really taking the time to observe: the classes, the kids, the dynamic between the kids and staff, the dynamic between all the kids, watching for those light-bulb moments when the kids were in their field classes. It’s fun to be a fly-on-the-wall.
Two things in particular struck me, and struck me drastically. I’ll start with the not-so-good and then end on a good note.
One….the amount of kids now on medication. Not just inhalers and Midol for some new little cramps, but medications for severe allergies and more bottled pills than you can imagine. At the beginning of the trip, when the busses were being loaded with kids, the parents turned over medications to the teacher-leaders of the group. It was astounding to see that a HUGE box was filled. I couldn’t believe it. The Box. Was. Filled.
Then, at the camp, they actually have printed on the schedule (along with field classes and free time), “morning meds” and “evening meds” (which just reminded me of Nurse Ratchett). The line outside the nurses office stretched long and far.
I’m an in awe of this. How has this happened? What is going on in our environment…the food, the toxins, the breakdown of our immune systems?…that has lead to young children needing constant medications? When I was a young child, there was maybe one kid in the class who was allergic to something. That’s not the case anymore, that’s for sure. Lactose-intolerant, ADHD, peanut allergies, nut allergies, depression, anxiety….what is going on here?
What is causing this? This wasn’t present in children fifty years ago. Not even thirty years ago. Is it the pesticides on food? Fumes in the air? In the carpeting? In the cosmetics that we put on our bodies and let soak into our skin? In the vaccines? Is it poor quality food? Is it stress? What can be doing this?
I’m merely raising the questions, for unfortunately I do not have any answers. This is the million-dollar question at it’s best. I have my theories here and there…such as how can we continue to douse our crops and fields with harmful poisons and hope that it’s not affecting human bodies? How can we buy food products that don’t even resemble real food anymore, but are filled with chemical colorants and bizarre preservatives, and think that they are feeding our bodies and helping them to grow (in a positive way)? How can potent cleaning agents be used in our classrooms/offices/stores/buildings and we are supposed to hope that are kids and adults aren’t breathing them in and it isn’t affecting their lungs and invading their tissues?
It’s amazing to watch how companies now are advertising “paraben-free!” or “no preservatives!” or “no high-fructose corn syrup!”. Now that these companies are realizing that they can make their products without them (hopefully with profits and a new following), the question is…why were they in there to begin with? If those ingredients and additives had been absent would some parts of our lives be healthier for it?
Now onto something positive that I noticed….in the cafeteria at the camp, the food was actually good. They were feeding quite the number of people, but they handled it well. One thing that they had at lunch and dinner was a very extensive salad bar. No plexiglass sneeze guard from the 70s, just aluminum salad bowls filled with all sorts of toppings. A good variety, too, from edamame to mozzarella balls, to lentil salad and many a veggie. The kids FLOCKED to this salad bar. At lunch, salad plates were piled high. At dinner, many a salad bowl was filled and refilled. It was awesome to see. Kids eating their veggies enthusiastically! Maybe you could argue that the kids just didn’t like the other offerings or that these were tweens who were starting to be figure-conscious…whatever the reason, they were eating the greens. And yellows. And reds. And beans.
I’ve read countless articles and books on the subject of kids and school lunches. It has been proven in many places that if you set out a salad bar and let kids do their own choosing, the veggies will disappear. Why is this not an option in every school? Yes, budget has some part in all of this, but let’s swap out the frozen carrots and wilted broccoli and belly up to the bar! This is also a great opportunity for school districts to start utilizing local farms and maybe cut their costs that way. Fresh food, healthy food. Brain food.
At the moment, only 1 in 5 public schools offers a salad bar at least once a week, says http://www.PBS.org. That’s an awfully slim offering, but at least it’s a start. Parents can start planting the seed (or alfalfa sprout) in their school districts to help this become more commonplace. Every Mom out there knows that if a kid is really hungry, he will eat what is offered. Let’s start offering more of this to our students!
Check out this website to learn more about this and then pass it on to all the parents you know: http://saladbars2schools.org
Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign to help end childhood obesity is also a big proponent of school salad bars. When my family and I visited Washington last summer, it was great to see that garden and bee hive on the front lawn on the White House. It wasn’t a huge garden, but it was growing lots of great fresh vegetables. Love that and what a great example to set for the nation. They have a salad bar on the front lawn!
In our home, we always have good salads, but I’m going to try this salad-bar approach with my kiddos. Lots of bowls, lots of choices, lots of ways for them to have a good meal.