Local Lunch and Obamacare!

So with all the upcoming election, maybe the most important in 20 years, I am underwhelmed by the dibble I am hearing from the opposing sides. The right seems focused that Obama has done nothing but chase bad money with good. The left to moderate contingency seems focused that Romney has too much money and wants to play good ‘ole boy with your money.

 

While both side have points to be made, they seem to be glossing over some of the changes that a trickling down from ObamaCare. The Healthcare bill known as ObamaCare (though ratified into law by both House of Congress), has had an impact on America. Time will tell if this impact has value. The changes are so subtle that the most people will not see them (labeling, ingredient listing, and origination of products) more about this later.

The most impactful change is to school lunch. We have all seen the crusade Michelle Obama has been on to improve the help of America’s youth. Most often the focus is School Lunch and why not! Over 70% of children in some areas buy lunch every day. Most of this is government subsidized through federal lunch programs. So if our government wants to impact the shape of our children, shaping what they eat seems like the logical choice.

I have been everything from appalled to outraged by the lack of choice and guidance given when choosing what to eat in the lunch line. Often my children thought school lunch was great, but when we got to the brass tacks of what they ate it would be French fries and chocolate milk. I would ask what else there was to eat and why they didn’t eat veggies of fruit and they would say they didn’t have too.

We eat local and fresh as much as possible. We even grow a healthy garden and practice freezing and canning to keep fresh for later in the season.  So I was concerned that when the emphasis in school lunches was fat, starch and sugar.   Protein, vitamins and minerals seem to get much less billing and even concern. The food pyramid seems as out of date as it did when I was in school 20 years ago. I was also put back by the lack of concern this type of food had on learning and behavior. With a high priority on disciple in the schools and a lack of accountability of the impact food has in this area, I am amazed more parents don’t put it together. The schools often pass this problem on to the parents and don’t take any reasonable responsibility to how a fat sugar laden diet may affect the kids.

Now under ObamaCare schools have been given the mandate to help student make the right choices. Now at least double French fry and double chocolate milk lunches will be less likely. Given a choice over time; kids make the right choices. If introduced properly to unique varieties of fruits and veggies at a young age kids will be more likely to choose these items over chips and candy.

One of my fondest memories growing up was being taken to The Roanoke City Market in preschool, then picking items for the Thanksgiving celebration the following week. I pick pomegranate, and till this day and long before it was labeled a super food have enjoyed this exciting fruit. We do what we know, the more we are exposed to the more informed choices we will make later. My mother often credits her children’s lack of inhibition towards fruits and vegetables for changing her mind and enjoying a greater variety of these.

Though starting here is good, but more could and should be done. We get so lost in teaching to test our kids are often left by the wayside and uninspired by the school learning environment. Little attention to science and history in the schools leads to little foundation for knowing what makes an area great. Virginia for example has long been known for innovative farms and farming techniques. The likes of Washington, Jefferson and Madison, used crop rotation techniques, along will diversity programs that would make most organic farm jealous today. So attaching emphasis to where the things we eat come from at an early age may inspire the next generation of scientist and farmers alike.

School garden programs and special meals with a local tone (ingredients from less than 100 miles) could be the logical next step. The school garden teaches responsibility, work ethic and a relationship between the Earth and our kids.  In a world of smart phones and video games, problem solving and common sense seem to be waning. Diet improves this ability to think, gardening improves health and esteem. Our kids could use a little of both in a world where we rank 35th academically and lower than we should in fitness.

Now back to the labeling issue. I was surprised if not astonished to find the level of saturation in the American diet of NutraSweet, MSG, and soy oil. I suffer from migraines and all of these seem likely triggers for my headaches, MSG being the worst. Thanks to the change in the labels this last fall I have been able to identify to my shock the number of foods that I was eating containing the three ingredients. My wife was in tears at the grocery when first trying to buy foods that did not contain one or all of these three substances.

Though MSG and soy oil are natural many people are allergic, or sensitive to these items. Bad labeling practices have allowed there inclusion in foods label natural, and or healthy. Now that ingredients have to be listed in order and opaqueness as to what is in composite ingredient have to be disclosing I can now more readily eliminate these and nitrates from my diet. The bonus is I have less than three migraines a month (as oppose to ten or more, some lasting two days). I feel healthier and feel much better.

This can only bode better for our children and for the likes of me. So ObamaCare is not a dirty word. The right should recognize that a good diet is not just for the wealthy but for all Americans. We the middle class should benefit from what we grow, not just financially and the Schools should be rewarded for innovation in lunch and teaching not made to conform to some bad idealized educational model that is getting us nowhere fast. We should inspire brilliance not feed and test for mediocrity!

 

Till next time good gardening!

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