Saturday, March 20, 2010

Coming to the Table

A friend and I recently attended a meeting of the Kent City Schools Wellness Advisory Board.  By recently, I mean about a month ago or more, but it's taken awhile for me to sort this out and, well, life got in the way.  We went to that meeting planning on talking about how we wanted to see better food in the schools.  we wanted food not to be used as an incentive.  We value children' health and want to see obesity rates lowered.  We're afraid of the corn-flavored sodium pellets that is "industrial sized" cans of corn.  We are acutely aware that ketchup does not actually count as a vegetable.  In short, we came to the table to share my concern about they were feeding children, mine and others and talk about how to improve food choices.

Imagine my surprise when the teachers and school employees that were in attendance started expressing their concern over what parents were feeding children.  The teachers were frustrated that they could only control what food and nutrition messages children received at school.  They were afraid that children would come to school, learn good nutrition, and then go home and be fed nothing but Doritos and soda by parents.  In short, they came to the table to talk about how best to educate children.

Both of these things- good options and good education- are necessary to beat something like the childhood obesity epidemic.  Both sides were right in our concerns.  However, little was done at that meeting and I have little hope for things to change in the near-term future.  Granted, this was more of an organizational meeting than a planning meeting, but even for what it was, there was little really accomplished.

Part of the lack of any movement on the subject is the lack of trust that both parties exhibited and felt, I think.  I realize Ken doesn't have the normal "kid" diet.  He doesn't get high fructose corn syrup or artificial food coloring if he's at home.  This helps his diet as well as my sanity- you don't want to know what his reaction is to Red #40, it's not pretty.  He also gets the vast majority of his grains as whole grains.  We eat mostly organic.  No store-bought canned veggies; just fresh when they're in season, frozen, and home-canned from fresh.  He's mostly vegetarian, although we have been letting him try meat at home  lately, where we know what the animals have been fed and how they have been treated.  I don't fit the school's idea of their student's parents lack of education.

The school where the meeting was held also wasn't what I had envisioned.  At the high school, there were things that I would almost consider eating.  They have a salad bar and a burrito bar.  They have real food, by US standards.  The school cafeteria that I remembered from my childhood was only a small portion of the options that were present.  This cafeteria more resembled a mall food court than the cafeteria in which I grew up.  It didn't fit my preconception of the food choices available.  It was also not what the lower grades' cafeterias looked like and those are closer to my view of a cafeteria, I was told by one of the teachers.

In retrospect, we all would have done better to leave our preconceptions at the door before coming to the table.  We would have done better not to have pre-judged the other side.  We would have done better to think outside of the "us" and "them" style of combative mentality.  We would have done better to trust each other until proven otherwise.  I think these are good lessons for accomplishing goals in many more areas of life.

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