Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Grounds for Change

We often hear about the rising obesity epidemic among kids these days, and we also hear all about the causes of it: less time spent outdoors, no physical education classes or recess, the prevalence of excessively sugar-laden foods and sodas, etc. We also know that there are alternatives to this way of life. School gardens, such as Alice Waters' edible schoolyard in Berkeley, are a promising example of how we can help children connect the food they eat with the health of the planet and their bodies. These kinds of hopeful initiatives bring beauty to the barren lawns that have become standard issues at some schoolyards while reducing the pollutants pumped into the air from diesel trucks carrying produce across the country (or from New Zealand!) into our school cafeterias.

Despite the obvious benefits of these kinds of programs, we are stuck in the status quo where Coke, candy, and chips are sold to kids all over school grounds. The federal government is doing very little to stop junk food at the schoolhouse doors. (No surprise there given the power of the food industry lobby.) The good folks at Commercial Alert describe the current regulatory situation:

"Federal restrictions on the sale of junk food in school are extremely weak. The definition of junk food is narrow. It includes only sodas, water ices, chewing gum and candies made mostly of sugar. Even worse, the US Dept. of Agriculture can only stop the sale of these foods during mealtimes in cafeterias-- not in vending machines elsewhere in school, or school stores..."

Pretty pathetic, isn't it? A new piece of pending legislation called the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act would expand how "junk food" is defined for purposes of restricting its sale at schools. The legislation would also restrict the sale of junk food in all areas of schools.

This legislation is a good first step in changing the way that we teach our children about the food on their plates (or in their wrappers...). Why not write to your represenatives and ask them to co-sponsor this legislation? A sample letter is here. Then, we can move on to showing kids the beautiful and tasty alternatives that exist. Real change starts from the ground up.


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