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Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

Books for Animal-Loving Gradeschoolers

Posted by tinako on March 5, 2013

My daughter decided to go vegan almost three years ago, and in an effort to support her, I have looked for children’s books in which there is a sympathetic awareness of animal exploitation.  In the past I have often had to put down a book she chose, Syd Hoff being a frequent offender, apologizing that I just couldn’t read it because I didn’t like how the animals were portrayed.  Teachable moments are great, but it is probably no fun for her to have the story constantly interrupted by a discussion.  I loved Syd Hoff as a kid – Danny and the Dinosaur and all that, but now I realize that the deepest wish of the animals in the books is to be exploited.  The wild horses are sad because no one is riding them, and the zoo animals just want to be looked at.  I can’t take it.

So I have a very small, not-at-all comprehensive, list of books that we have read together that meet our new needs.  I’ll keep adding to the list.  They aren’t perfect; they may show affection for one species and sweep another under the carpet.  Some just show a love between people and farm animals and exploitation just doesn’t happen, or just show animals in a positive light, but most of them have in common that they walk that narrow edge between the love of animals and the use of them.  They dare to look on both sides of the wall.

  • Harald and the Stag – Carrick.  Picture book but better for school-age and up I think.  A middle-ages boy saves a stag from hunters.
  • Babe, Ace, Pigs Might Fly, Pretty Polly – Dick King-Smith LOVES pigs.  Chapter books.  The farmers in these stories confront their own beliefs and habits in the face of extraordinary animals.
  • Catwings – Leguin, chapter books.  I actually found these insipid, but my daughter loved them.  No special anti-exploitation message, but they aren’t offensive either.
  • Charlotte’s Web – White, chapter book.
  • Most books by Bill Peet
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, O’Brien

Books I thought might be good but stopped reading:

  • Misty of Chincoteague – I loved this series when I was young.  Though I understand the kids question the pony round-up, there was too much unexamined, off-hand exploitation of other species in the first few chapters.  I have a feeling most horse books will be like this – it’s easy for authors and their readers to love a horse.

Posted in Animals, AR, Schools, Social Justice | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Dairy Dilemma

Posted by tinako on January 19, 2013

As part of a local environmental organization’s initiative to increase packaging recycling in school lunchrooms, I’ve been taking a turn going in to our school district primary school once a month and helping the kids recycle their lunch materials.  These are first and second graders, so they are sweet and fun but need a good deal of assistance.  In case you’re wondering about the details, there are about 200 kids eating at once, and every table gets a bin to toss their recyclables in, and in one cafeteria a student from that table brings their bin up to the sink and recycles everything with my help.  In the other cafeteria, I go and collect the bins after lunch and process them myself.  We recycle rinsed milk cartons, plastic cups and lids which fruits and veggies come in, plastic “silverware,” milk/juice boxes and pouches, water bottles, and chip bags.  Unfortunately they still use Styrofoam trays which we can’t recycle.  It is painful to watch the trash fill up with those, used for 15 minutes and lasting 400 years.  Of course it would be great if the district used reusable items, but they got rid of their dishwashing (and cooking) abilities when they shrank the kitchens to make room for more students 10-15 years ago or so.  So we are doing the best we can.  About half the kids bring their lunches and don’t generate much trash.

I didn’t anticipate when I signed up for this just how much milk I’d be handling.  Each needs to be opened up and given a quick rinse, but frequently the milk needs to be dumped first.  I pour a lot of milk down the drain in my two hours.  In addition to coming home smelling like it, it makes me very sad to think what the cow went through to provide what I’m dumping.  She desperately wanted to give it to her calf, who wanted desperately to have it, but the USDA school lunch program forces it on children who don’t need it, want it, or drink it.

Well, most drink some of it.  From memory, I estimate that about 40% of the kids get milk, 90% of the milk chosen is chocolate (even when the kids don’t open it), 30% of the cartons are completely consumed, another 40% are partly consumed, 25% opened but pretty full, and 5% are unopened.

This last time I went in, the leader told us we had the option of saving the unopened milks either for our families or the food pantry.  And so here is my dilemma.  Do I save milk, which I don’t think is particularly healthy, especially the 90% that is chocolate (22 grams of sugar, almost two tablespoons, in one cup of milk), to provide to hungry families, or open this junk the cows suffered for and pour it down the drain?  Is this sugar-milk less wasted if it is processed through a human gut than directly down the drain?  Am I a vegan promoting milk by providing it to the poor?  Is it arrogant of me to presume to choose for them, or is it caring to not dump USDA surplus sugar-milk on them?  What if it was candy instead?  Is it my right as a volunteer to decide according to my own deepest value, compassion?  If I don’t pass on this milk, will someone purchase or donate replacement milk, at the cost of further animal suffering, or will an alternative be more or less healthy, compassionate, and wasteful to the environment?

Having to make a quick decision, I thought that if I was this conflicted, either choice was probably acceptable – the choices that would best serve one and all had already been bypassed by others, and it was not my fault that I was not left with good options. I decided to collect the milk in my cooler and let people who visit the pantry decide.  I delivered about a gallon and a half.  I tried to remember the lesson of Torn and deliver it cheerfully.

What do you think I should do next month?

Footnote: Food Pantries Request Healthy Food Donations has milk in the yes column and sugary beverages in the no column.


Posted in Animals, AR, Buddhism, Schools, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Big Food

Posted by tinako on July 23, 2012

I just listened to a Yale Rudd Center podcast about a new exhibit at the Yale Peabody Museum called “Big Food: Health, Culture, and the Evolution of Eating.”

I’ve asked my city’s science museum to consider hosting this exhibit.  In addition to wanting to see it for myself, I love the idea that area schoolchildren could be exposed to these ideas in a fun way.

Maybe you’d like to see it at your local museum, too.

Posted in Nutrition, Schools | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Contents of a Middle School’s Vending Machines

Posted by tinako on February 28, 2011

I surveyed the contents of my son’s middle school vending machines and analyzed the results. My purpose was to share this with parents in our district, but it is closely related to my other nutrition posts, so here they are, for my local friends or anyone who wonders what our children face every day:

Beverage Machines

Snack Machines


Posted in Nutrition, Schools | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Middle School Cooking Classes

Posted by tinako on January 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

My son has to do some home cooking for his Home & Careers class.  Initially he did not bring home the project sheet and just said he had to make a cookbook, so I didn’t object when he chose four cookies and a cake for his booklet.  Whatever, he’s eleven.  When I found out he was supposed to cook them all asap, I had to object, even over the Christmas season.  We were not just going to make batch after batch of cookies for his homework.  He was more or less going to have to go along with what our family was going to eat.  So it ended up being, 2 cookies, a cake, muffins, and a soup.  He just finished the last of them this weekend.

With my assistance he made: Lentil Soup and Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cake, Cinnamon Sugar Muffins, and then today, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  He got to make the executive decision to put chocolate chips in only half the cookies, and then find out that everyone including himself preferred them with.

Posted in Menus, Schools | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Why I care what other people eat

Posted by tinako on December 15, 2010

I was commenting at a blog the other day in favor of recent proposed legislation meant to nudge people into making better food choices.  A reply to my reply asked me why I care what other people eat.  I had to think this over a bit, but I have an answer, and prefer to give it its own space here on my own blog.

I care what other people eat because of compassion, the food environment my family faces, and concerns about costs and sustainability.

First the background.  People are not making food choices in a vacuum.  They are making those decisions in an environment which is slanted in such a way that they are encouraged to make unhealthy choices.  Unhealthy food is subsidized by the government (through grain which is converted into meat, sugar, and fat) and is more profitable for food companies and retailers.  Unhealthy quantities are pushed on us through ubiquitous placement and marketing by a food system that needs us to buy more, more, more, in order to remain competitive.  The fact that we can only eat so much has been ignored and, actually, disproved; turns out we can eat more calories than we used to, and than we should.

What this means is that the status quo, expecting people to suddenly make better choices, regardless of whether they are children, whether they can afford it, whether it is available in their neighborhood, and whether they are relentlessly marketed unhealthy food, is unrealistic, as has been proven by decades of rising obesity.  Thirty-four percent of the U.S. population is now obese, and an additional 34% are overweight.  Yes, that’s 68% of adults over a healthy weight.   Almost 17% of U.S. children ages 2-19 are obese.  How is a two-year-old responsible for being obese?  How will blaming the child’s parents help the child?  Scroll down at this page from the CDC to see an amazing map showing the population relentlessly getting heavier, state by state, through the years.  Blaming individuals hasn’t worked for the past 30 years, as obesity rates have risen, so what makes us think that it’s going to work in the future?

The U.S. Center for Disease Control introduces their entire obesity section not with an urge to “put down the fries, fatty,” but with this:

American society has become ‘obesogenic,’ characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity. Policy and environmental change initiatives that make healthy choices in nutrition and physical activity available, affordable, and easy will likely prove most effective in combating obesity.

But to return to the question, so what?  I provide good food for my family and we are healthy.  Why don’t I mind my own business?  Why should I care what my proverbial neighbor eats?

I care because I have compassion.  The same compassion that leads me to forgo eating animal products leads me to support legislation that tries to undo the unfair food environment in which we are immersed, an environment I have been lucky to resist not because I’m a superior human being with stronger character (I’m not) but probably because of a combination of good genes, good socioeconomic status, a mother who ate well during pregnancy and nursing and cared about nutrition and family suppers, and a leaflet someone handed me that led me to become vegan.  I have compassion for the 68% of overweight adults and the real suffering that ensues; the risks for these diseases increases:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

People who are overweight also suffer social stigma, employment bias, and low self-esteem, often along with a continual struggle with the unhealthy food that surrounds them.  Overweight people often report that they never stop thinking about food – it controls their lives much like an addictive drug.  For this I have compassion, and if I can speak up to encourage laws to prevent overweight and obesity, I will.  I care.

I have compassion for the 925 million hungry of this world who would like to eat the grain wasted when it is fed to animals.  Thirty-six million people died of malnutrition in 2006.  Of course this is not all our fault, and this is a complex issue, but our country’s food policies, including subsidies which not only encourage our inefficient consumption but also unfair trade, absolutely play a strong role.  I support domestic and international policies and encouragement of personal diets that take world malnutrition into account.  I care.

I also have compassion for the animals suffering in this food system under government-skewed economics that encourage us to eat more of them because their feed is subsidized and their negative environmental and health impacts are not paid for at the checkout counter.  If I can encourage legislation that brings the price of meat in line with the real costs, I will.  If I can lift the veil of secrecy that hides the horrible things done to farm animals in our name, I will.  I care.

My children eat well at home, and I pack lunches for them because the school lunches are not healthy.  Did you know there is currently no limit to the amount of sugar that can be in a USDA-approved school lunch?  And yet there are minimum calorie requirements, and insufficient funding.  Hmm, how can schools put in enough calories with hardly any money?  Sugar and fat are the cheapest calories (remember corn oil and high fructose corn syrup are subsidized by the government?), but the fat actually is restricted to 35% of calories (still a lot), so now you know why school lunches are loaded with fat and sugar.  So I support legislation to improve school lunch standards for other kids, even though I side-step them myself.  Here are some other ways I mentioned in an earlier blog about how the food environment impacts my kids despite my best efforts.  We seldom eat out or watch TV, but my kids have personally encountered these:

Restaurant kids meals are always horrible, commercials on TV encourage kids to eat unhealthy food, teachers have kids visit web sites from candy companies in school, unhealthy snacks are often given to kids in preschool programs, lollypops are handed out on the way out of restaurants, fast food restaurants line the streets near schools, candy and sugary drinks are sold at gas stations and drug stores on the way home from school, schools have vending machines selling sports drinks and candy, weekly birthday or holiday parties include cupcakes with 4″ of icing, classes that behave well earn pizza or doughnut parties; chips, cookies, ice cream, and Little Debbie snack bars are sold daily in the lunchrooms, and on the first day of school my son’s teacher handed out taffy to kids who raised their hands.  Every one of these situations makes parents’ job, to raise healthy kids, harder.

Someday soon my kids will be on their own.  I hope that I, like my mother, can inoculate them against the toxic food environment they will face 24/7.  But if I can speak out to help improve that environment to make healthy decisions easier, I will.  I care.

I’m concerned about our nation’s diet’s effect on health care costs.  The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine makes the connection between this issue and our hair-tearing about the high costs of medical care:

“Even if the steak and cheese produced on American farms foster health problems, our government rallies behind agribusiness all the way to the emergency room.  Sadly, every administration in recent decades has been caught up in a system that not only tolerates ill health, but encourages it.” – Barnard

Almost 10% of total U.S. medical expenditures are attributed to overweight and obesity.  The Congressional Budget Office calculates that if obesity rates continue to rise from 2007’s 28% to 37% in 2020, health care spending will be 7% higher than it would be if obesity rates were to be reversed and drop to 20%.  I support legislation that will lead to a reversal in obesity rates because I care about health care costs that our family pays through insurance premiums and taxes.

I’m very concerned about the environmental unsustainability of Americans’ current eating patterns, and trends in the developing world.  We eat more meat per capita than any other country except Uruguay, so we can hardly ask others to cut back, but the planet cannot, cannot support even the current worldwide population eating like Americans do.  I’m not talking about causing some pollution somewhere, maybe a few frogs die, I mean it’s physically impossible, but on the way to the impossible we will irreparably harm our planet.  Our choice of diet is having an enormous and unsustainable impact on water usage and pollution, acid rain, soil erosion and pollution, air pollution, global warming, wildlife, oceans, antibiotics, and non-renewable energy.  I don’t mean that our unavoidable need to eat causes these problems, I mean we make them magnitudes worse than they need to be because of the discretionary foods we choose to put in our mouths.  The example we set, the culture we export, and our inability to ask others to do what we cannot is setting the stage for a disaster.  The U.N. knows this and is urging the world to adopt a plant-based diet.  One of the suggestions to reduce energy use from a University of Wisconsin researcher who calculated energy use of foods is to “decrease consumption of beef, sugar, and highly processed foods.”  But right now our government is subsidizing exactly these foods through grain subsidies, making them cheaper and therefore increasing sales.  I support ending those subsidies, or if that is politically impractical, counterbalancing them with taxes on unhealthy foods or subsidies on healthy foods.  I care what people eat because our diet is ruining our planet.

All legislation is not equal.  We can debate the merits of particular bills, their costs and effectiveness.  But first we need to care.

Posted in Animals, Cancer, Cardiovascular, Diabetes, Disease, Environment, Nutrition, Osteoporosis, Schools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Food and Addiction

Posted by tinako on October 17, 2010

Dr. Elissa Epel

I listened to a podcast from the Yale Rudd Center featuring Dr. Elissa Epel, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF.  She had the strongest words I’ve heard yet on whether food is addictive, with most researchers saying it might be so but we need more research.

She wonders, Why do people overeat against their will?  The answer her research indicates is that the reward center in our brains is a major driver of what and how much we eat, and is regulated by dopamine and opioids.  The pleasure center lights up when we are engaged in very rewarding activities.

She uses the term “highly palatable,” which means that it doesn’t just taste good, like a delicious crisp salad, but that it tastes amazing, like a hot fudge sundae.  Think fat and sugar.  When rats get highly palatable food, their reward center “goes crazy,” but they habituate so that with continued sugar they start having a normal brain response.  What about people?  With repeated sugar, do we habituate or do we become sensitized, dependent on that level of reward?  She answers that a large proportion of people seem to be wired to become highly dependent on highly palatable food, so that they go through hedonic withdrawl when they eat less of that food.  They feel terrible.  She gave as an example Morgan Spurlock’s description in Supersize Me of how he felt after five hours without McDonald’s food: he was nauseous and shaky, which Dr. Epel said was consistent with opioid withdrawl.  Highly palatable food and drugs of abuse use the same neural pathways.

Why is sugar picked on so much?  Just because it’s studied so much?  No, she answers, sugar has special properties in the brain.

She explained that lower animals without much cortex are well-calibrated to keep homeostasis and only eat the calories they need.  Human brains are not good at detecting how many calories we need, and the reward system can completely override those delicate signals of satiety.

Another thing she brought up was that severe dieting, forcing ourselves to not eat something, such as sugar, sensitizes the reward system even more and leads almost inevitably to bingeing, massive overeating.  Stress is involved as well.  She mentioned an experiment wherein rats were given oreos, which were then withheld.  If you then return the oreos, the rats don’t overeat unless stress is added as well.  Also they will not binge if you block the opioids (probably surgically or pharmaceutically).

Here is where she starts getting more concrete about whether food is addictive.  She mentioned that she has met people whose described relationship to food sounds exactly like drug addiction.  It runs their lives.  These are probably a statistical minority, but she says there are lower levels of addiction.  She mentioned families who at the insistence of a nutritionist give their best effort to stop drinking sugary soda, and they are unable to do so.  This is a food dependence on a spectrum with addiction.

She mentions a study in which they found that about 50% of obese people and 20% of lean people have no sense of satiety.  They never feel like they have eaten enough.  She says the toxic food environment is the number one driver of this satiety failure, and stress exacerbates it.

If food is addictive, what are the implications?  Her answer is that Just Say No to the doughnut on your desk does not and will not work.  We’re steeped in a culture that looks on obesity as a failure of personal control, but our brain is wired so that almost everyone will choose the doughnut, especially if stressed, and especially if trying hard not to eat it.  That restraint is peanuts compared to the strong impulsive drive.  Dr. Epel’s clinical work in helping people develop mindful eating is a weak Band-aid in the face of our toxic food environment.  She says we need food policy to help people, both tax structure and healthy defaults.

Drugs have been described as “hijacking” the brain, running down any reasoned responses.  Could you use that very powerful word to describe food?  Dr. Epel answers, for some people, yes, and for kids, they don’t have those reasoned responses – we have to control the environment for them.  To fail is to set them up for a lifetime of struggle against obesity.

Posted in Nutrition, Schools | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Killer at Large

Posted by tinako on September 22, 2010

I just watched the movie Killer at Large – Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat.  This documentary is a collection of interviews and clips from journalists, researchers, doctors, and public health figures regarding the obesity epidemic.  I must warn you that it inexplicably opens with graphic footage of an obese 12-year-old girl getting lipsuction.  I made the mistake of sitting down with my lunch to watch, and I don’t recommend that.  I think this scene would have been better later on in the movie, or perhaps not at all – I’m not sure what function it served.

However, once past that the movie was very good.  It returned frequently to the point first made in the film by Surgeon General Richard Carmona: people are frantic about terrorism, but obesity is much more dangerous.

The movie covers schools, and I enjoyed hearing what the vending machine rep said to a gym teacher who was trying to get vending machines out of his school.  The dire consequences of this act would be that 1. kids would get in their cars to drive to a store to buy the item they could no longer get in school.  On the way they would be killed in a car accident, and that would be on the gym teacher’s head.  Dire consequence number 2. was that instead of soda bottles with bottlecaps, the kids would have soda cups with lids, and the soda would spill all over the carpets.  I guess the gym teacher would have to live with that, too.  So, every kid in school would die and they’d have a whopper of a carpet cleaning bill.  Ultimately, money won out and the school would not give up the $1,000 that the kids were feeding into the machines.

Absolutely astonishing was footage of parents outraged that junk food was being removed from schools.  They staged demonstrations where they passed junk food in through the schoolyard fence to kids who were being deprived.

Other parents demonstrated against Sesame Street when Cookie Monster told kids that cookies were a sometimes treat and they should eat their veggies.  Parents and children marched with placards showing “C is for cookie, not carrots!”  More signs said “No carrots!” or showed carrots with the circle and line X-ing them out.  Of course, parents were handing out cookies to the kids as they all marched around.  ????

I loved the segment regarding the Shrek “Get out and play an hour a day” public service ad.  The documentary shows representatives from 8-10 processed food companies together with George Bush and the head of Human Services meeting to try to take some action on this obesity thing.  Did the representatives have any suggestions regarding improving the nutrition of their products?  Not that I could discern.  The outcome of the meeting was apparently the Shrek public service announcement, the industry’s typical shunting of blame to the exercise side of the obesity equation, to avoid any embarrassing scrutiny of the diet side.  Steven Colbert takes over from there, and I’ll leave you with him: Clip

Posted in Diabetes, Nutrition, Schools | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fat Land

Posted by tinako on September 17, 2010

I just read Fat Land, by Greg Critser; its tagline is “How Americans became the fattest people in the world.”

What I liked about this book is that it gave an interesting account of how and why portion sizes in movie theaters and restaurants went up.  Briefly, people will not order two packages of popcorn because it makes them feel like gluttons.  This is a problem for movie theaters, because while movie tickets were not all that profitable, the popcorn and drinks were high-markup items, very cheap items for which people would pay a lot.   They tried two-for-one deals, combos, specials, it didn’t matter; one person would not buy two popcorns.  In hindsight the solution seems obvious, but it was a breakthrough in the 1960s: get people to spend just a little more on larger sizes of popcorn and drinks.  The theater adds pennies of popcorn and charges dimes for it.  Sales increases were astounding, and the idea was reluctantly but successfully carried over to fast food.  Voila. [pp.20-1]

Greg Critser

I also liked a brief explanation of why HFCS is not the same as table sugar, despite industry advertising to the contrary [pp.136-7].  There is also a sobering, no, shocking summary of the things that can happen to diabetic bodies [p.141+].

Other than those concise explanations, I had difficulty with the book.  My problems with it were:

1. The writing was frequently unclear.  I’ve read many books on the subject of food in America, and am not sure I’ve come across one that I had so much trouble understanding.   I can’t point to an example now, but I would reread the section a few times and then scratch my head and move on.  It wasn’t that it was a terribly complicated concept; I just felt it was obtusely communicated.

2. I also found the organization within chapters poor and jumpy.  The ending was abrupt, three short paragraphs referring to Dante’s circles of hell that appeared to be tacked on when he realized he needed to finish the book in the next 60 seconds.

3. There was a chapter on physical education that I simply could not force myself to complete.  I got about three quarters through, but it was just too boring.  Granted, my interest is food, so maybe this is my problem and others would be more excited about the history of gym classes.

4. He has a split personality on who is to blame.  Chapters one and two are about how government and industry have sabotaged our food environment, from trade policies promoting palm oil, to that popcorn and french fry supersizing.  But then chapter three, “World Without Boundaries (Who Let the Calories In)”  lambastes permissive American culture, as though once, earlier in the twentieth century, we were all upright citizens who could control ourselves, and then suddenly, mid-century, people fundamentally changed and were now rampant hedonists.  Well, it could be that at one time homo sapiens was able to control its urges and then, coincidentally, just as business started discovering how to get us to buy more, homo sapiens changed and now were a bunch of losers.  Or, it could be that those pious early humans didn’t have pharmacies that sold potato chips, 20-oz. Coke vending machines in schools, and 610-calorie french fries on every block.  People have always wanted “what they want, when they want it.”  But now someone is shoving it in their faces.

One sentence particularly annoyed me: “Parents must take back control of the table” [p.161].  I don’t think he was talking about me, since I provide a healthy diet to my kids and do my best to shield them from unhealthy outside influences.  But that’s just it!  There are so many ways in which our food environment undermines parental efforts in this respect.  Restaurant kids meals are always horrible, commercials on TV encourage kids to eat unhealthy food, teachers have kids visit web sites from candy companies in school, unhealthy snacks are often given to kids in preschool programs, lollypops are handed out on the way out of restaurants, fast food restaurants line the streets near schools, candy and sugary drinks are sold at gas stations and drug stores on the way home from school, schools have vending machines selling sports drinks and candy, weekly birthday or holiday parties include cupcakes with 4″ of icing, classes that behave well earn pizza or doughnut parties; chips, cookies, ice cream, and Little Debbie snack bars are sold daily in the lunchrooms, and on the first day of school my son’s teacher handed out taffy to kids who raised their hands.  Every one of these situations makes parents’ job, to raise healthy kids, harder.

In his last chapter, “What Can Be Done,” Critser seems to make more sense again; he suggests two successful personal approaches such as weight loss intervention programs for schoolchildren and educating and encouraging children to have less screen time, but most of the ideas are not about personal, unilateral change, but about changing the environment: schools, fat or sugar taxes, playgrounds, and other federal programs.  I think Critser has the right idea; he just forgot about it in chapter three.

I agree with Kelly Brownell that obesity is a failure of personal choice, but also a failure of environment.  Our current environment is undermining our attempts to make good choices.  Blaming individuals, either one-by-one or collectively, is not a helpful strategy.

Posted in Exercise, Nutrition, Schools | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »