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The Power of Two

Clashing Saucepans

Published November 1, 2012 4:08 PM by Eleanor Wolfram

Holy baloney is it my imagination or is food choices within schools systems becoming more than of an issue settling the global debt load? Hardly a week has passed when there isn't a new and different battle waging amongst students, teachers, parents and the school board authorities about menu selections. In some under developed countries (including some poor and rural areas of the United States) children are starving. In the developed countries, such as the U.S., Germany, and Britain to name a few, lack of food is not the problem; it is the type of food being served that is causing the controversy. 

The well known comedian Buddy Hackett was once quoted as saying, "As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it." When I was a child, I received from similar comments from parents and cafeteria monitors. Trying to be picky on the items placed on the plate only lead to being told, "Take it or leave it." or "Eat everything on your plate." The variation in responses depended on how much energy the adults wanted to expend.

Just about every adult on the planet when they were children received similar parental and lunchroom overseer quotes. This is a truism for most kids across the globe. But over the last 20 years, something must have been added to the drinking water because the adult decision makers are becoming more unglued regarding the food choice items in children's school lunch meals. 

You Say It's Ketchup, I Say It's Catsup
It seems that there are three variations on how to spell the word ketchup. There is ketchup, ketsup and catsup. The correct spelling depends of what geographical part of the U.S. you live in or in China or India. It also depends on which manufacturer bottle label (i.e. Heinz, Kraft, or Hunts) you are most familiar with. I am sure that having so many versions of spelling this red stuff is a brain teaser for children during their spelling bee sessions. Asking the teacher to put the word in a sentence as an aid is of little help, since all three versions sound exactly the same.

In 1981, in an effort to save money in school programs, President Ronald Reagan declared that ketchup should be considered a vegetable. Everyone accepted this unusual mandate, until just recently. Speed forward to 2011 and you will find that politicians, school officers and others are battling over whether ketchup on French fries and tomato paste on pizza should count as a vegetable. This debate has become a huge controversy between the democratic and republic parties. Go figure.

Burning Tax Money
Meals are not the only thing cooking, or should I say burning in the kitchen. These never ending debates occurring in Congress, is burning through tax payer money. Arguments include clashes over school items of the serving of potatoes, chocolate milk, nuts, cookies, cranberry juice in vending machines, home-packed lunches versus cafeteria lunches; and cheese sandwiches.

Poor Food Choices Also Cause Bullying
Unhealthy school menu choices have been attributed to everything from contributing to the rise in diabetes to bullying.  Yes, there is a theory now that poor nutrition can cause school children to become bullies.

It's About Trust
School meal choices has become such a fascinating topic, just about everyone has jumped on board to provide opinions. There are so many food item controversies now being attributed to the cause of children's personality disorders, malnutrition, and chronic illnesses. If you are not careful to stand back to get a better perspective of who is making the menu placement decisions, you can become overwhelm with the varying sides and research supported debates.

To gain perspective one finds that there must be a shifting away from the frenzy of sensational news releases, hysterical articles and fame seeking hogs. In trying to get factual information in regarding who actually makes the decision and provides medical consultation to the education systems, I was happy to find that with the investigative process of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is superb.

In fact, upon closer scrutiny I found the USDA recruits, hires and retains a well stocked pantry of qualified employees. Their personnel are comprised of team of nutritionists and clinical laboratory specialists. The USDA's Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) laboratorians conduct thorough studies on school meal items and nutrients as they relate to protein, fat, energy (calories), carbohydrate, fiber, iron, vitamins antioxidants. In addition, this agency encourages schools to include in their budgets foods, like cranberries to treat diseases such as Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) and Helicobacter pylori.

In investigating the collaborative effort of how the USDA and NDL test, select and re-evaluate menu items and their recommendations to the Board of Education, I think it is about time the lay people stop the twenty year battle that is only escalating and eating up tax money on Washington hearings to re-interpreting school meal items (i.e., ketchup). Enough is enough. It's about time to trust the appointed food laboratories and their collaborative partner, since we did after all grant them the authority for menu decision-making. 

Dive Right in, the Water is Warm
Last night I happen upon yet another school debate article which asked the question: Should kids go Vegan?  Evidently this vegan writer has decided to step into the perfect storm. With the ongoing school lunch controversies on high tilt, the writer suggested that vegetarians unite to advocate for the elimination of meat from school lunch programs. I can only add to this newest wrinkle this thought provoking quote written by an unknown author: "Can vegetarian children still eat animal cookies?"

posted by Eleanor Wolfram

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