February 16, 2007

Kids Think Green is Gross!

We all know that kids are picky eaters, but it turns out that it may have more to do with marketing than with actual taste. According to an article in the Buffalo News, local schoolchildren there turned up their noses when their name brand yogurt was replaced with an organic brand that actually won in blind taste tests with those very same kids. Yogurt sales plummeted more than 50%.

Even before Reagan proposed that ketchup be considered a vegetable, school lunches were barely enough to keep kids full, let alone healthy. Originally intended to affordably feed the nation's hungry students, whose schoolwork and health were suffering from hunger pangs, the national school lunch program fell frighteningly short of its goals. Increasingly, though, city kids are discovering new options that leave their bellies full and their hearts just a little healthier. The question now is, how can we sell our kids on it?

Many of the healthy lunch programs being toyed with these days have goals that go beyond getting kids to simply "eat right." They recognize that children are inundated with advertising these days, and need to be trained to make connections that until now have been deliberately severed: like how the food we put into our bodies affects our state of mind, our ability to function properly and our long-term health. And even how the food choices we make impact the world around us, on both a local level and a global one.

Programs like Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard teach schoolchildren how to grow their own food, thereby making these connections. This is a growing movement, and is largely grassroots in nature. If you have a school-age child, seriously consider whether they are getting the nutrition they need when you send them off each day. Because chances are, they are gulping down sugar-laden sodas, and fat-ridden chips and candy.

If you want your kids to eat something different, try these options:
  • Feed them better at home: According to the Buffalo News report, that is the most effective way to get kids to make better choices when they're on their own.
  • Talk to your school district: Tell your child's educators what you expect of them. Get other parents involved for a stronger influence.
  • Get help: Many organizations work with city school districts to educate kids about nutrition in fun, effective ways. A lot of these even help schools start vegetable gardens and educate the schools themselves on how to serve more nutrutional food. A few programs to get you started include Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard (California), FoodChange (New York), the School Food Trust (U.K.) and Sustainable Food Systems (a consulting firms for schools).
Also check out Two Angry Moms, a documentary about what happens when parents finally get involved in their kids' diet.

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