Michelle Obama's ideals for school meals unreal
There's more to life than french fries and pizza.
That seemed to be Michelle Obama's thinking when she pushed a campaign to fight childhood obesity. The first lady has told kids to eat fewer calories, be more physically active and make wiser food choices. Amen to that.
But wouldn't you know it, kids aren't clamoring for carrots and celery sticks. The revamped menus in school cafeterias (baked fish nuggets, anyone?) have sparked a steady refrain of comments like “Yuck!” and “Gross!” I've heard of kids who've responded by tossing fruit and little bags of carrots in the garbage.
The Associated Press reported this week that some schools are dropping out of the $11 billion National School Lunch Program because kids are bringing food from home or sometimes going hungry.
I bet a Wendy's pretzel bacon cheeseburger wasn't what Mrs. Obama had in mind. Surely she doesn't want low-income students who might get their only “big meal” at school to dump it in a trash bin.
I reached out to registered dietitian Judy Dodd, who has been involved with the local chapter of the “Let's Move” initiative. She's heard many stories about students lashing out against the program but said the problem isn't new.
“I see it as an education issue and a support issue,” said Dodd, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh. “(The program) is not working in many places because the kids have made up their minds and the adult caregivers that influence the kids have made up their minds.”
But what about the chicken nuggets that taste like rocks, as I heard one child complain? Dodd said they taste different because they're baked, not fried. They still have chicken, still have protein, she said.
Try telling that to a 10-year-old.
For such campaigns to work, Dodd said, they must start earlier in a child's life. Parents and teachers must reinforce the message, she said.
“We should've started with the preschool through third or fourth grade,” Dodd said. “Trying to do it across the board is wrong.”
It's too soon to say whether Obama's plan will prevail. Can we persuade our children to give up items that make childhood fun and carefree? Is Mrs. Obama credible enough to do this, even after professing her love of Pamela's pancakes in the Strip District a few years ago?
You have to admit that teaching kids to eat whole wheat pizza and baked sweet potato fries can be as arduous as teaching them to like opera. Kids want ice cream and potato chips — the same as adults. You never leave a party and turn to your spouse, saying, “That veggie tray was truly out of this world.”
The importance of better nutrition shouldn't be overlooked. But we need to be realistic. Though setting limits on calories is wise, it can't be a one-size-fits-all approach. Think of the high school athlete forced to eat a skimpy lunch only to face hours of calorie-burning soccer practice after school.
Perhaps Dodd said it best: “I don't have a problem with children having potatoes or some of the foods they're throwing rocks at. The point is: What's a reasonable portion for a child?”
That's right. Let them eat french fries.
Luis Fábregas is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fire breaks out for 3rd time in abandoned McKeesport house
- Former Pirates pitcher Happ agrees to $36 million, 3-year deal with Blue Jays
- Former McKeesport resident donates to heritage center children’s raffle
- Recalling ‘White Friday’ storm that paralyzed Mid-Mon Valley in 1950
- Chicago retail district targeted by protesters
- Unabashed church pastors put politics front and center
- Clairton among greatest WPIAL dynasties; Aliquippa, South Fayette close
- Convinced Fed will raise rates in December, investors parse meaning of ‘gradual’ increase
- Karns City tops Bedford in state football playoffs
- Penguins notebook: Players prepared for tough schedule in minors
- Unsung backups provide boost for Steelers defensive line