Are we "Fed Up"?
I recently watched the movie Fed Up from Laurie David the producer of An Inconvenient Truth. In An Inconvenient Truth, a grim picture was painted of real dangers of global warming. In Fed Up, a similar grim story is told of today's obesity epidemic and the staggering number of childhood diabetes rates. The point of the story is not that people are just sick, but that the food industry has been misleading the American public into the epidemic we face today.
A few scary points from Fed Up are:
1. "This generation will live shorter lives than their parents."
2. "One soda a day increases a child's chance of obesity by 60%."
3. "By 2050, one out of every three Americans will have diabetes."
Diabetes 2, which used to be called adult onset diabetes is not contagious or genetic; it is a diet and lifestyle disease that is affecting more and more children. It is because of statistics like these that I become enraged with the food industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I am not a big political activist but I have dabbled into the public school systems. Last year in Redwood City, I went on a plight to remove chocolate milk from my children's home school, Orion. My hope was that in removing this ridiculous form of extra sugar from our school that I could then try the district and maybe somewhere along the line catch up to Jamie Oliver, the English celebrity chef, in his quest to better school lunches. Jamie Oliver, with his Food Revolution, has proven that if only given the choice for white milk, kids will eventually choose it. I would rather they drink pure water, but I will settle for plain milk.
While teaching dance in schools since 1997 from San Diego to the upper east side in NYC and all over the SF bay area, I have found one consistency in schools across America. The lunches are abysmal and the kids are spun out on sugar. My biggest complaint is the ADD sugar creates in young bodies and minds. Every child is affected even when only half the class eats school lunches every day. When a few kids, spun out on sugar, demand the teacher's attention for bad behavior, the rest of the kids have to sit and wait for class to resume. Sugar makes teaching a very laborious task. I am almost positive this is why teachers often schedule a non school day following Halloween.
I tried for a few months to request the removal of chocolate milk and instead was stonewalled with tons of false information on the vitamins in the milk. An unnamed official was trying to convince me that the 4 ounces of chocolate milk only contained 1 tsp of sugar; and was thus a healthy choice. This is what I shared with the Child Nutrition Department about the non fat chocolate milk.
Milk is already a sugar (lactose) and without the healthy natural fat in milk to slow down the digestion of it, our bodies burn through it rapidly causing a spike in blood sugar. This is exacerbated when students accompany it with a frosted cereal. With the rising numbers of children developing diabetes and the high rates of obesity, it is tragic to see them begin their day with this meal. Vitamins A and D are fat soluble and cannot be assimilated by the body if the milk does not contain healthy fat. The body needs Vitamin D in the fat to assimilate Calcium and Phosphorous and a nonfat milk cannot provide that. Also, our bodies do not properly digest proteins if there is no fat present. The Vitamin B or Niacin is in the amino acid (protein) which again cannot be digested properly without fat. In order for all of the healthy benefits you mentioned, the milk would have to be an unprocessed whole fat milk.
What really upset me the most was that this official kept trying to pass me off to lower ranking employees and when I neglected to give up, she finally told me the bottom line was that they would sell less milk if they removed chocolate milk from our school. I was relieved to know that she could not argue that it was a healthy choice, but furious that the Child Nutrition Department did not give a damn about the health of my child or any other child in our district. They were simply trying to help the food industry sell more product.
I let the removal project rest because I saw that it was going to take a lot more than logical nutrition to stand up for the health of our children at school. I am not a political guru and am completely in the dark about how to make this change, but beware, I have not given up. Watching Fed up renewed my vigor as did the recent vote in Berkeley to raise the sales tax on Soda, Gatorade, Snapple, and Lattes with added sugar. I feel the surge of resistance as people begin to realize the food industry is feeding us a load of crap and making billions of dollars off of our addiction and disease.
Are we "Fed Up"?
What I think would be appropriate is to form a viewing of this film in our area so people can see for themselves what we are up against. A colleague of mine in Slow Food South Bay recently played Fed Up at San Jose State University to a large group of educated students and I would like to organize the next viewing. I will post the location and time of the viewing in Redwood City as soon as it is finalized.
Even if you do not have children in public schools, remember this generation is our future. They will be the ones taking care of us in retirement homes, cooking our food in restaurants, and nursing us in hospitals. We need to invest in their future, even if it is a baby step like removing excess sugar in the form of chocolate milk from their choice at school. If the doctors in Fed up are correct when they say, "this generation will live shorter lives than their parents." Who will be there to care for our generation?