School Food Reforms: The Meat Pie Pushers

Last week The New York Times took a look at how students were reacting to recently enacted school food reforms in tri-state area schools. If you remember, some students were encouraged by the new menu offerings, but others were more resistant. Marcelle S. Fischler explains:
“It’s a good idea because obesity and all that is a serious problem,” Max Gold-Landzberg a senior at John Jay High School in Cross River, N.Y. said. He wasn’t enticed, though, by the healthier choices on the hot food line like herb-roasted chicken and stir-fried veggies.
Fischler points out that those students uninterested in the healthier cafeteria food simply brown-bag their lunch. I very passive protest indeed—I mean its not like they had their moms hustling burgers through chain link fences outside the school. That would be crazy, who’d do a thing like that?

The English. You’d expect something more dignified out of our friends from across the pond, but it’s true. According the Sarah Lyall of The New York Times students in England are not accepting school food reforms without a fight, and neither are their parents:
“They shouldn’t be allowed to tell the kids what to eat,” Mrs. Julie Critchlow a parent at Rawmarsh, a high school in south Yorkshire hills, said of the school authorities. “They’re treating them like criminals.”

Mrs. Critchlow has become a notorious figure in Britain. In September she and another mother — alarmed, they said, because their children were going hungry — began selling contraband hamburgers, fries and sandwiches to as many as 50 students a day, passing the food through the school gates.

The mothers closed their business after they were vilified in the national news media as “meat pie mums.” Mrs. Critchlow now feeds her children lunch at home.
Apparently Mrs. Critchlow thinks “meat pies” and “chip butty’s” (a French-fries-and-butter sandwich doused in vinegar) are better nutritional options for children than low-fat pizza and beef curry; two of the new “healthier” menu options Fischler cites in her article.
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Jackie Danicki - October 21, 2006 7:25 PM

I'd be very careful about blaming one incident on "the English". I'm an American in the UK, and nothing boils my blood more than some Brit pointing to the behaviour of one or a few Americans and concluding that "the Americans" are [insert negative adjective here].

For what it's worth, the problem with the kids who are getting junk food through the fence was one easily predicted. Infliction of deprivation and concentration on what is forbidden - rather than exploration and enthusiasm for healthful food - will always lead to this kind of rebellion. This is why, despite the obsession with thinness and the multi-billion-dollar diet industry, people are getting fatter.

It would be far more sensible to teach children - and adults - an approach rooted in moderation. I have personally lost more than 100 pounds, and was only able to achieve that when I stopped focusing on what was verboten, started having fun with the food that is good for me, and stopped beating myself up for having an occasional treat. I'm allowed to have many more treats than I actually consume...because I know that if I want them, I can have them. If I thought I could never have a bar of chocolate or a glass of wine ever again, I'd probably head straight for the wine and chocolate!

This all-or-nothing, perfectionist attitude is a dangerous one, and what kept me from a healthy life for far too many years. It is criminal to pass that attitude on to children. Any parent can tell you that the best way to guarantee kids don't do something is to demand that they do it. So why can't educators and government busybodies figure that out?

Leanne - January 22, 2009 2:18 PM

I'd have to say that beef curry and pizza don't sound particularly healthy either.

Whatever happened to fruit and vegetables?

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