If you haven’t heard from a pizza fanatic, like myself, last month Congress wrote a bill that continues to allow the tomato paste on pizza to be counted as a serving of vegetables. While you may have heard this argument circulating for a while, the Obama administration and the Department of Agriculture have proposed to make school lunches healthier in recent years. In opposition, schools with tight spending budgets argue that the government should not regulate what their students can or can’t eat. The proposal for healthier lunches was based on the fact that childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years and future health care costs will suffer because of it.
If pizza and potatoes, served daily in many schools, continue to bombard the school lunch lines, the majority of students will choose these unhealthy options while passing up the selection of other vegetables. I know how it feels to walk through the lunch line, knowing your parents aren’t watching over your shoulder and telling you what to put on your plate. It is irresponsible for schools to serve so many unhealthy options, knowing that the majority of students will choose them. Without the responsibility of the schools to implement healthier lunch options through cutting back on pizza and potato options, children will fall into the trap the frozen food and salt industries want them to.
It is also crucial to remember that children from low-income families especially in the city of Chicago live in food deserts where fresh food markets are miles away. In these situations, many of these low-income families do not have the cars necessary to transport groceries through the city. The result of these food deserts is families settling on fast food dinners that are low in nutritional value. If you haven’t put the pieces together yet, these children most likely have cereal for breakfast, pizza and fries at lunch, and a fast food meal for dinner – all of which are likely absent of whole grains and proper servings of vegetables.
Here lies the essence of our childhood obesity problem in low-income families.
Next time you pick up a slice of pizza, consider a side of a real vegetable.