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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Getting Back on Track: Food and Influence

No matter what your political leanings, if you are a holistic parent you have reason to applaud recent efforts by the Obama Administration to refocus our attention on real food. First came the White House garden - a remarkable project spearheaded by the First Lady and designed to remind us of the value of natural, whole foods and the joys of getting back to the land. Simple acts of donating produce to local food banks and bringing in elementary school children for a lesson on nutrition may be written off as publicity stunts by critics. But, in fact, such actions make a bold statement about the power of individual efforts and how we can each produce change. Heads of State have been inspired by the garden and its message, as have gardeners and families across the country.

Now the Obamas are taking another step - this time toward ridding our school systems of junk food. According to the New York Times, the Obama Administration is introducing legislation to remove candy, soda, and other toxic foodstuffs from our educational institutions. With childhood obesity rates increasing from 6.5% in 1980 to more than 19% of children by 2008 according to the CDC, this is an important step in the right direction. Our schools should be committed to helping children learn and highly processed, artificial foods have no place in that commitment. A nutrient-deficient diet has been linked to host of learning problems, including ADD/ADHD, hyperactivity, and mood disorders. Recent studies are also finding a link between junk food diets and violence, yet another issue our schools battle to manage. And, just the other day, a new study was released indicating that soda consumption is correlated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Is this what we want to teach our children?

Not surprisingly, the American Beverage Association is opposed to the efforts but more shocking is that resistance is also coming from school administrators and parents. Schools earn money by promoting junk food within their buildings and both parents and administrators find a bit of twisted logic to explain how kids will miss out on programs and supplies if deprived of the things that rob their bodies of good health. Fortunately, some schools have already decided that the price to kids is simply not worth it and others have found healthier, greener options to raise money for school programs. One smart group of students in Florida protested an effort to sell candy and potato chips for a school trip after learning about their less than stellar nutritional profile in health class - a protest that resulted in a $16,000 donation from the widow of Robert Atkins, ensuring that their trip would be held.

As parents- and as the President - we need to set an example about the value and importance of real food for our kids and for our future. Love them or not, the Obamas are in a position of influence and thankfully they are throwing their weight behind a healthy and sustainable future.

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