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nutritional violins

Forgive me the ruse of exchanging the word violence for violins, as did Emily Litella (Gilda Radner) on Saturday Night Live years ago. In the skit, Miss Litella gives an impassioned editorial response to a story about parents objecting to violins on television. Chevy Chase eventually interrupts and informs her the story was actually about the “violence” on television. “Never mind”, she replies. Well, I wish this was about violins–it would sound much nicer–and we wouldn’t have to mind.

Three years ago, I came upon an article that referenced the term nutritional violence. I had never heard this term before, but it gave a label to what I had considered the glaring basis for what was gravely compromising the health of our populace. I made a mental note to further explore that issue and bookmarked the link so that I could reference it when ready.

When I recently revisited the link, it was no longer active, and I cannot locate it again. I had long hoped to credit the author and her article–so if you may be familiar with this, please let me know. Instead, I poked around for other references and found some articles on nutrition’s impact on violent behavior which I have been musing on as well, given the recent stream of extreme acts of terror perpetrated by assault guns. This past fall, after the tragedy in Las Vegas, in a rare Instagram, I posted the MyPlate Haiku question, “I often wonder, What did they eat for breakfast? Those who go and kill.” 

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Paiute Indian Harvest Exhibit                        Cannonville, Utah

Actually, the following is the only dietary information I have on those who have pulled the trigger: in limited media details on the Parkland shooter, I heard he was apprehended after the shooting having a soda at a local mall; the YouTube shooter was a vegan; and Dan White, who killed Harvey Milk, invoked his diet change from healthy foods to Twinkies and other sugary foods as part of his defense, claiming their consumption was symptomatic of his depression.

While my own data is thus limited, and yes, I was shocked and chagrined to learn of the vegan’s destructive rage, there is other evidence of the association between the composition and constituents of one’s diet (or lack thereof) and behavioral impacts–including violence. Studies have demonstrated the decrease of violent behaviors through dietary and nutritional manipulations in prisons and in schools.

Interestingly, schools were the first institutional settings where large scale attention to nutritional improvements was made–though those efforts continue to be challenged and there is still much work to be done. I was reminded this week of the disconnect between our institutions and communal well-being in an article in The New Food Economy on “lunch shaming” whereby students whose families cannot afford to pay for school lunches are stigmatized and either denied food or offered an inferior meal. The article quotes Christine Tran, a school nutrition equity advocate, who states, “School food is often not seen as a school issue, which is a problem philosophically within our country.” One might broaden that statement to reflect many other environments.

While I have witnessed school lunchrooms and have written about this previously, I have not been privy to a prison chow hall. However, I have engaged in enough conversations with those who were previously incarcerated, and those in drug treatment programs to have a pretty good sense of what is going down. It is sad to see how seriously overlooked nutrition is as an adjunct to healing.

I bring your attention to two papers (here and here) that describe how poor diets and nutritional deficiencies may be risk factors for aggressive behavior and solutions to address this grave problem. The usual, along with the not so recognized, culprits are to be found on the list of troublemakers.

By addressing nutrition as it relates to the promotion or provocation of behavioral violence, I may have strayed here from my intention to discuss nutritional violence–nutrition that violates individuals and communities, but the two could be conflated. If we have been able, with only short hindsight, to witness the profound impacts of our modern adulterated foodstuffs on physical health, it should not be a huge leap to consider the mental health consequences as well. An increasing understanding of that which affects the brain–and the brain’s relationship with the human gut microbiota–provides insight not only into our physiology and metabolism but into our moods, emotions, cravings and other behaviors as well.

The nutritional violence I was initially thinking about is not perpetrated by guns, but by our food system and the purveyors of its policies and products. It does not kill its victims point blank, but, it robs. It robs people of access to basic food required for physical, emotional and social health and well-being–and disproportionately it does so to the poor.

We might credit that our food system does not starve its citizenry, leaving it victim to gross nutritional deficiencies causing widespread blindness, stunted growth and kwashiorkor as in other parts of this world. But, it is certainly acknowledged that it has inflicted harm in its own and profound way.

I don’t think I have to describe what our food landscape looks like here. Many of us may have some basic ideas of the food deserts; fast-food swamps; adulterated, processed, sugar-laden foods commandeering our grocery stores (pharmacies, schools, and hospitals); seductive and targeted advertising; pesticide-laden, large-scale government subsidized supported agricultural practices; caffeine and sugar-riddled beverages; and corporate-controlled food policy. Allow me to add in marginalized breastfeeding promotion and support; native lands devoid of access to water and cultural foods; food insecurity and hunger; and pharmaceutical food additives. (My, that was a fun paragraph. What did I miss?)

I hope I do not have to try too hard to convince that there is some essence of violence in the above, nor that such suggestion is considered hyperbole. One may have to close their eyes for a moment to imagine and appreciate more deeply the collective impact. But, then also, to go one step further, and to consider how our food system more deeply affects communities already burdened by injustice.

Quite coincidentally, after I started this piece, I saw that my old friend Mark Hyman, powerfully addressed this very topic, in a talk titled, Our Food System: An Invisible Form of Oppression, that he gave last week on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. He gets to my point better than I could, outlines the profound consequences of this oppression, and reaches a  much broader audience. I thank him for his attention to this matter and for sparing me my final paragraphs.

There are many others who also address similar concepts in various ways and with different names, such as food and race; community safety and nutrition; oppression through poor nutrition; gender, nutrition and the human right to adequate food and nutrition; food justice; and food sovereignty. There is much serious content packed in here, but all worthy of review and consideration if this is of interest to you.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: Serenity Now, Of Poverty and LightKyuushoku, Reporting from the Rim of the Sink Hole

P.S. Take a peek at Emily Litella’s funny tirade on Busting School Children — which may be sadly relevant.

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Broken My Plate

My Plate Haiku

I often wonder

What did they eat for breakfast

Those who go and kill?

by Elyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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brought to tears

I actually found it in a garbage can at the Health Department where I now work. I’d been trying to get my little fingers on one of these for a while, so I was not totally put off by its lowly circumstances. It really should have been in the recycling bin at least, but there it lay, abandoned, thankfully right on top. I gingerly lifted it from its resting place of refuse and walked it right over to a nearby sink. tissues-1000849_1920

I unscrewed the cap which I was about to discard until I noticed that it too was an artifact of interest to me– but that was secondary to the bottle, at least for starters. The bottle was still half full or half empty, so my next quasi-distasteful act was to pour the hazardous saliva-mixed remains down the drain despite my uncertainty regarding proper disposal procedures for what might be considered a toxic substance.

A few months back I had become aware of some new Coca-Cola campaign entitled Share A Coke. Cans and bottles of the ubiquitous beverage now have one of about 250 first names, like Debbie, along with other emotionally tinged monikers like Bestie, Grillmaster, Wingman, Mom and Dad prominently displayed on the label under the directive to Share a Coke with the dearly imprinted. Just hearing about this manipulation of the human psyche triggered my shivers down the spinal reflex. But, when I began to see the bottles for sale in my local convenience store and in the cafeteria in my office building it was downright spooky. But, here I was now, up close and personal with one.

Things must have been getting pretty bad over there at Coca-Cola. Previous promises of perpetual happiness associated with imbibing the sugar-laden, highly acidic, caffeine-laced, teeth-rotting, gut-deteriorating, illness-promoting fizzy elixir must have begun to go flat. Were sales lagging? Was the logo no longer recognizable the world over? What else could have initiated a marketing blitz that reeks of malevolence as it strives to ensnare our fragile egos and enslave our purchasing behaviors?

I remember being excited when those little mini license plates with names on them that you could attach to your bike seat first came out. But, I also recall the immediate chagrin when you could not find your own name hanging from the metal display rack. Suddenly you felt second-rate, not worthy of a plate. I am not certain of all of the psychological underpinnings that are attached to this probably billion-dollar campaign, but I am sure they are many. Does seeing our name emblazoned in such a public way make us feel validated, loved, powerful and more connected in this alienated world?

I don’t really get the campaign. I am sure, most of the time, you have to buy a bottle with someone else’s name on it. How much can you bother to search for a bottle that idolizes yourself or a loved one? Must you settle for John when you are really seeking Mario? And then, what if you don’t have a person to share it with? That is probably what happened to my bottle, Nicole. Half-finished and tossed aside, unshared and hopes dashed. Even the reward points offered on the cap were left unclaimed and discarded. Reward points? Really?

I don’t want to go any further on this except to say that this unbridled assault on our health through such methods of aggressive advertising can and does bring me to tears. I’ve written about this before. One does not have to look too hard to see the real rewards of such consumption, but you have to care to be looking and looking to care. I am too verklempt even thinking about needing to reiterate the effects of these substances anymore.

Originally, the reason I wanted to get a bottle without purchase was to be able to include it as a photo for this post–but now I don’t even wish to give it any publicity or visibility. We are clearly easy targets for seduction even when clearly it is not in our best interest. So, Nicole will now go directly into my recycling bin and instead, I am posting a photo of a box of tissues. My only hope is that an unexpected outcome of the campaign will be that with all that sharing of cans and bottles, per capita consumption will actually shrink by at least half.

Anyway, while there are sad tears there are also happy ones. I specialize in both. Recently, while also at work–it may have even been the same day that I retrieved the Coke bottle, I received an email from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. It included a video that spotlighted healthy and healing practices being undertaken at the West Side High School for at-risk students in New York City through a powerful investment in a gardening program, real food, and intensive physical activity– by a dedicated and devoted principal and staff.

Thirty-six seconds in and there I was bawling (yes) in my little, oh not so private cubicle. In my last post, Childhood Awareness Month Obesity, I wrote about my reservations about the bulk of nutrition and health activities being directed at obesity prevention efforts whereas I believe the implications and consequences of our cultural dietary and health insults are so much greater. I did not get much response on that so I would still be interested in hearing your thoughts. But, in this video, simply and beautifully, a young woman named Tenia expresses why eating proper foods is important for both emotional and physical well-being–aside from weight-based associations.

This glimpse of transformation that occurs when the birthright of health is granted, when it is given priority and nurtured, and not compromised by those so willing to sacrifice our young in an endless pursuit of profit is worth viewing. I highly recommend it. Here is the link. Note, don’t forget the tissues.

Just a mention that my own recent favorite brew has been matcha, a fine green tea powder. I enjoy it as a tea or mixed in smoothies. It is fuller or richer than regular green tea and it gently provides a touch of focus and energy. I was initiated with a gift of a package of Matcha from Kiss Me Organics that was exceptionally pleasant and which has become a welcomed part of my day and my diet. There are many benefits of matcha to explore and it can be incorporated into many recipes. Give it a peek.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Na area da saude, Elyn

Related Posts: Private Health, Childhood Awareness Month Obesity, So-Duh

Nirinjan's Plate

Nirinjan’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

It is easier

To reprimand the sinner

Than change the system.

by Julie

just today

Just today, I got an email informing me that the way to eat carbohydrates more efficiently and prevent the insulin resistance associated with diabetes is to take Cinnamomum Burmannii, Berberine, Pterocarpus Marsupium, 4-hydroxy isoleucine, #5 – R-Alpha Lipoic Acid (R-ALA). These substances are available in combination in pill form. Well, that sounds nice and easy, I thought. Now just how could I obtain some of these little Burmanniis and Marsupiums for all of the inefficiently carbohydrate-eating, diabetes-prone poor folk. I wished nutritional supplements were available to my clients. I’d settle for some R-Alpha Lipoic Acid.  IMG_3170

Just today, I did not attend the bariatric conference that I went to last year and described in How Can You Say No to a Brownie.  Therefore, I missed the session on Diet Strategies: Which work and which don’t. I guess I will have to wait, along with the rest of the world, on that breaking news.

Just today, I culled through the medical records of a number of clients at the Health Center, collecting data for a project I am working on. Medical records are literature. They contain the stories of lives weathered by poverty documented by scads of lab results, vitals, hospital discharge papers and consult notes. Lives marked by the chronic health problems of diabetes, hypertension, pain, extreme weight, and hospitalizations. Conditions tended to by a boatload of pharmaceuticals, prescribed in an oft crapshoot manner.

Just today, I missed the webinar I had registered for with Renegade Chef Ann Cooper. Without an ounce of rocket science, she is feeding kids healthy foods in schools. I was disappointed. This would have brought some hope and inspiration.

Just today, I received an e-health report from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science describing that 50% of people with hypertension do not have it controlled. I thought about all the records I had just pored over. Most of those with uncontrolled hypertension are on one to three hypertensive medications.

Just today, I wished again–this time for stress reduction programs for my clients. I left my office near tears. I dreamed about a new line of work.

Just today, on my way home, I heard a news story that the US Army had declared a service-wide stand down to bring attention to the problem of suicide in the military. Army bases around the world were shut down for mandatory suicide prevention training.

Just today, I took a walk. I thought about processed food. I use tweezers to extricate it from my clients’ lives though I could use something a bit stronger–like a Jaws of Life. I wondered about a stand-down calling for a moratorium on the low-quality foodstuffs that glut our food supply. I decided that we need a National Day of Nurturing and Nourishment.

Just today, my amazing, earth-moving niece Shanti shared some stories about the beautiful and remarkable greening, gardening and food work she does with the Clinton Housing Development Company and Cultivate HKNY in the midst of New York City.

Just today, going to pick up my daughter from crew practice, I drove along a quiet road with the sun setting spectacularly on one side while the harvest moon rose beautifully over the other. Arriving home, I read the team’s paperwork asking me to sell David’s Cheesecakes, Grandma’s Pies and cookie dough for a fundraiser. My heart sank. My inability to broker in sugar will cost me some bucks as I will have to choose the buyout.

Just today, I wrote this blog. As I was calling it a day, an old friend posted information about an organization doing wonderful work. I was glad to learn about One.org which is working with women to address childhood malnutrition and putting nutrition on the global agenda.

Just tonight, I shut out the light, deciding I would do a new little campaign at the Health Center. I will call it One Day One Way encouraging people to take back their own health. By the light of the moon, I wished you all good night.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

my plate

My Plate Haiku

If only we could
Change the world on that one day
By feeding our hearts .

by Julie

a bushel and a peck of ways to address childhood obesity

It seems that we spend a lot of time fixing things that should not have ever become so broken. Not only time is wasted but a lot of resources– that seem to be rather scarce these days.

As this relates to the care and feeding on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels of human beings, we certainly have been drawn off course. Some significant digressions from what should have been a rather intuitive matter or a natural symbiotic relationship with the natural and nurturing environment have occurred.

Healthy Children

Healthy Children (Photo credit: Korean Resource Center 민족학교) drawing by 13 yo Suzy An, Irvine, California

Though early humans expended much of their energy trying to procure food for survival, they still seemed to have had time for other endeavors as well–like discovering fire, inventing the wheel and designing clothes. Nomadic cultures certainly had to find to go or take out food solutions. One would think that at this stage of the game, we too should be able to both nourish and progress.

Listening to the persistent conversation about the problem of obesity one might think evolution-wise we were still inventing the wheel. The top experts in the field are engaged in the mandate to ferret out the problem and find solutions, huge research projects are undertaken, big monies are allocated, programs are created, public health campaigns are rampant. The hunt is on and it has been going on for decades. This time its pursuit is not roaming bison or wild turkey but the reclaiming of our natural homo sapien form and functioning. So far, we seem to have only snagged the primordial beast of ‘eat less and exercise more’.

I wonder if this all has to be so difficult. Where and how did we stray so far off course? How did we allow the school food situation to get so bad? Other nations with way fewer resources have maintained a large degree of nutritional integrity, even if in the form of some hearty gruel. Jamie Oliver, a simple lad from England, has managed to bring nourishing food into kids’ cafeterias.

Today, sadly aware that September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, I venture into the childhood obesity debacle to suggest that maybe we can shift the focus, listen to our inherent wisdom, reclaim our cultural connectedness and tweak the approach, to save some of the expended resources that we are currently draining. I know these are complicated matters but perhaps there really are more holistic solutions.

Here are some possibilities:

ð  Legislate paid maternity leave of a valuable length. The United States is one of only three countries in the world that do not offer paid maternity leave. The other two are Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. Most countries provide paid leave of between 14-22 weeks. Norway allows 44 weeks, while Canada allows 50. Mothers here who do get to stay home for a meager six weeks after the birth of their babies generally are those whose jobs provide disability insurance. Wow. What a warped difference in consciousness. maternity leave comparison

ð Implement more generous, equitable and flexible time-off policies. Without time for parents to establish healthy routines, many important aspects related to family and child health are neglected. Additionally, one cannot even begin to discuss weight matters without acknowledging the role of stress on our eating and metabolism.

ð Promote and normalize breastfeeding. It is important to understand the nutritional, metabolic, digestive, and immune implications of replacing human breastmilk with artificially manufactured milk substitutes. Updated 2020: Infant Feeding History Revised

ð  Revisit infant feeding recommendations. Our early feeding practices rely on the introduction of cow milk and soy-based proteins, processed grain cereals and juices as babies’ first foods. Infant feeding recommendations promulgated by physicians professionally under-educated on nutritional matters and baby food manufacturers seem almost sacrosanct in our society. Decades-long infant feeding guidelines are based on often misguided attempts to compensate for and mitigate the negative effects of depriving infants of species-specific breastmilk. The digestive imprinting and physiological adaptations to our first foods provide important clues as to children’s feeding inclinations. Ignoring this stage is short-sighted.

Update 2020: Somehow I missed the memo. While I had known the American Academy of Pediatrics had through the years strengthened their stance on promoting breastmilk as babies’ first food, I did not realize that in 2017 they updated their 2008 guidelines on starting solid foods. Notable changes are recommendations for extended breastfeeding, no juice during the first year, and an increased variety of introductory solid foods instead of just iron-fortified cereals. First foods to give your baby.

ð  Appropriately nurture children’s developing food palates–like other food-conscious cultures do). This means we should not be catering to children’s unformed palates. Doing so dwarfs the development required to appreciate more sophisticated and healthier foods, tastes and textures. Overexposing children early to an onslaught of sweet and chemically-produced tastes inhibits acceptance of the wide variety of foods required for a balanced diet and predisposes them to serious health problems. How the french feed their children;

ð   Stop advertising and marketing food to children. Over thirty-five years ago, Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Action for Children’s Television petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to restrict advertising aimed at children–in large part due to its effects on children’s dietary preferences and intake. The FTC agreed that such practices were inappropriate. However, the food, toy, and advertising industries pushed back and unfortunately pressured Congress to halt taking action. Today, 17 to 20 billion dollars are spent annually on the marketing of non-nutrient foods to children.

ð Remove unsavory ingredients from the food system. While our FDA continues to hold to its stance that artificial food dyes and preservatives in our food are safe, other countries have begun to take progressive action to remove these substances from their products–even those made by American manufacturers–for the sake of their young citizens.

ð  Redesign supermarket and drug store layouts so that they do not cater to 4- year-olds’ sensibilities. Next time you shop, pay attention to how many cartoon character endorsed products are populating the food aisles, especially at the eye-catching “end caps” and checkout counters.

ð  Direct adequate funding to school meal programs. School lunch in Japan.

ð  Respect recess. Put it back in the schools if it has been taken away. Provide it daily and preferably before lunch. Children innately know how to move. We just have to ensure that they have the appropriate time and space to do so.

ð  Integrate relaxation/yoga/resilience training and cooking/gardening/movement curriculum at all grade levels.  

ð  Protect farmers and subsidize fruits and vegetables.

Well, using agricultural measurement, I think that is enough for now. If we truly and intelligently wish to address this matter–and to heal what should have never become so broken–we have to restore the capacity of those best equipped to nourish and protect our children–the parents, farmers, cooks, teachers and schools. And yes, it may require the funding, creation, and implementation of policies on a larger-scale which will facilitate that as a nation we are prepared to do so.

May we love our children a bushel and a peck.

In health, with a hug around the neck, Elyn

Please share your thoughts or additional ideas on this matter. Thanks.

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Smooth peanut butter

Spread on a peeled banana

Snack time perfection.

by Gretchen

a shmear campaign

I really wish I didn’t have to write about this. Other more pressing issues in my brain are asking to be brought forward. However, it was another day in the schools for me, and checking out the cafeteria scene has become one of my pastimes. Here is what I stumbled upon today that I just can’t readily dismiss.

As usual, I approached the lunch line as the little kiddies were lining up, trays in hand.  The black styrofoam mystery boxes stood in formation on the big metal trays coming out of the warmers. I approached the lunch ladies with my pseudo-smile and asked–So what’s for lunch today? The response was, it is not lunch, it is brunch. I was a little taken aback. I admit it was one of the earlier lunch periods, but a quick glance at my surroundings confirmed that this was not Sunday morning at The Four Seasons.

I backed off and decided to see what the kids could tell me. I positioned myself near the little machine where they punch in their assigned lunch number, and then grab their chocolate milk container from the insulated fabric cooler. Really, Jamie Oliver, the cooler carried fifty containers of chocolate milk and two of white, plain, unflavored milk. (I am never sure what is the politically correct name for that milk. )

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Bagel-fuls

I asked the kids what’s for lunch. As the meal was still hidden under its patterned plastic wrap, they too were still pretty clueless. All I could see was that there was something wrapped in cellophane with writing on it under the plastic wrap. I soon learned that brunch consisted of two turkey sausages lying on the bottom, appearing quite naked or a tad underdressed if you ask me, a hash brown square, and on top a squished Bagel-ful. Do you have the full picture–or are you stumped because like me you have no idea what a Bagel-ful is?

A Bagel-ful? I did not make this up. Subsequent investigation revealed that apparently Kraft has been marketing this for a few years now and I think you can actually buy these in stores. If you don’t know what a Bagel-ful is, it is a processed rectangular dough product injected with Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

Blasphemy! Is there not some standard of identity for a bagel? Is not a bagel by definition a boiled heavenly dough formed into a circle thereby having a hole in the middle blessed by some senior rabbi and ordained by God? Is a claim of propriety by a food manufacturer not something akin to idol worship? And, isn’t there some omniscient understanding that we should not be serving such meshuggah to children in our schools? How is this for product placement Morgan Spurlock? Is this an example of cost containment in our school lunch programs? Not to mention that the Bagel-ful got heated up in plastic?

Pondering the composition of this meal, I wandered the lunchroom. I think the kids are on to me. Some may be a little suspicious but very deep down I think they know I have their best interests at heart–so they are usually pretty friendly and quite adorable when I stop to chat with them about what they are eating. Today, a kid who chose a turkey sandwich instead of a hot meal asked me to help him to free the sandwich from its plastic bag. It was a good thing I was there. The tie thingy was the kind you can’t undo and you just have to brutally tear the plastic from its tight grip.

My market research showed that a number of kids thought the Bagel-fuls were nasty and did not eat them. However, other kids then asked those kids if they could have it instead. Oh well. The good news is the apples looked good and seemed to get a 100% approval rating. I wonder who made them.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

kyuushoku

Lunch in a Japanese primary/elementary school:...

School lunch in Japan Image by Currawong1 via Flickr

Though the lunch menu indicated that the day’s meal was called “Mix It Up Day”, I was not sure what was actually getting mixed up. To me, it looked like the same mess as usual, except that pizza was not the main entree. I am usually in the schools on Fridays which is always Pizza Day unless it is Pizza Bagel Day. But, today was a Wednesday.

On my information gathering excursions into the school lunchrooms, I always have to smile broadly and express benign interest as I approach the women serving on the line.

For “Mix It Up Day”, the main dish was served in individual black styrofoam containers covered in patterned cellophane wrap–shipped in from a centralized district kitchen. I could not identify the contents. “Good afternoon. What’s for lunch today?”, I politely asked the lunch lady who was placing the black styrofoam containers on the white styrofoam trays that the children clutched as they moved down the line. “Chicken and cheese”, was the response. I tried another gentle inquiry but realized I would have to figure it out on my own.

Another lunch lady was ably in charge of serving the two additional meal components–puce green overcooked broccoli mush and applesauce. With a metal measuring cup in each hand, she plopped the oozing applesauce into the bare compartments of the children’s trays while the broccoli sat idly by. Considered an optional component, it was not even offered. I later saw only one child with the broccoli on her tray. Reminiscent of poor Oliver’s experience in the orphanage in Dicken’s England, I wondered could there not even be a small effort towards more attractive food preparation and presentation.

Still needing to discover what that main course even consisted of, I strolled among the children who were already seated to eat. I found them contending with a dinner roll, two or three battered half dollar-sized circles which I think was the chicken, and three battered mozzarella cheese sticks. While circling, I also surveyed the number of chocolate v. white milk containers; the contents of the lunches brought from home; what was actually being consumed; and, anything else that might edify my knowledge base of what kids are eating in school. Finding it all less than appetizing, I maturely suppressed my prone-to-gagging inner child and returned to my office.

Later, I headed home, still digesting the day’s school lunch experience. The car radio was on, broadcasting more news about the unfolding tragic events occurring in Japan in the wake of the earthquake in Fukishima. Suddenly, the name Mix It Up Day took on a new ironic meaning. I began to think of all the children who would not be having school lunch there on this crazy day or for many days to come.

Remembering that a few months ago I had received an email describing school lunches around the globe, I felt certain that Japan must have been one of the countries chosen to highlight. This country of such rich food culture and ritual could surely vindicate the belief widely held here that we must serve kids low-quality food because that is what they will eat. I arrived home and found what I was looking for.

According to information provided by http://www.kitchendaily.com and www.chefann.com, school lunch in Japanese is called kyuushoku. The lunches are all prepared in the schools, often by mothers of students who serve in this role on a part-time basis. The meals are eaten in the classroom with the teacher, along with parents who contribute to the cost of the school lunch program and are invited for lunch throughout the year. The children, clad in clean aprons, rotate the job of serving the food and no one can start eating until all have received their share. This is in sharp contrast to the chaotic, cacophonous “cafeteriums”  that define school lunch programs here. Recently, I had asked a young girl what she thought about my coming to eat in the cafeteria with her. She replied that I would get a headache.

Commonly in Japan, local foods are sourced with regional pride, children grow and harvest some vegetables that are used by the school, and everyone receives a printed menu that tells what food groups are provided by the meal. Typically provided foods include rice, rice noodles, miso soup with tofu, grilled fish, seafood stir fry, potato croquettes (korokke), stuffed omelette (omurice), daikon radish, sweet yams, bread, and milk. Forty-five minutes are allotted for lunchtime which is followed by recess.

In that topsy-turvy tsunami-ravaged part of Japan, in this dark hour, lunchtime is really mixed up for millions of Japanese school children. As we pray that all their bellies be full of even just some warm rice or noodles, let us honor and carry the intention and care that defines how that country tends to the feeding and nourishment of their young to our own children here. It would serve us all well.

Any school lunch experiences to share?

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Resources:

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My Plate Plate

My Plate Haiku

Did you really think / that you could hide / fish in rice?

Oh, the green paste burns. by Francesco Marciuliano 

from I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats

 

 

 

 

Pop Smarts

Pop-Tarts Frosted Strawberry

Pop-Tarts Image via Wikipedia

Last week was a rather discouraging one for this persevering nutritionist. I knew it was bad, as on Friday I found myself contemplating stopping at a Dunkin Donuts and just drowning myself in one of those massive confectionery pond-sized drinks, weighted down with heavy donut shoes.

The final straw so to speak had occurred just moments before. On Fridays, I work in some elementary schools. As I was packing up my Mary Poppins basket musing on the students I had spent my day with, an announcement came over the loud-speaker. The principal was congratulating a boy for his lack of tardiness or absenteeism for the month of February. His reward was that he got to share a Burger King lunch with some school-level celebrity.

Really? Why don’t you just shoot me in the foot? Well, maybe this boy was being given his fair reward. All the other slackers who had managed to show up on this day got a thick greasy piece of pizza, a cellophane-wrapped bag of carrots (which is more appealing than most of the veggie offerings) a blob of half-frozen mushy blueberries–the ice crystals were visible– and a chocolate milk on their non-recyclable styrofoam tray. That should teach them not to miss school.

The night before I had been at a charter elementary school. I was a presenter with two other speakers on healthy choices for school success. I had been excited that the school had focused a parent meeting on this important topic and was glad to have been invited. Despite good intentions on behalf of the school, only six parents out of a student body of 300 attended. Still, we did our thing.

Out of my Mary Poppins basket, I  passed around, along with some other nutrition shockers, a well-worn packet of Pop-Tarts with an attached baggie filled with the eight and a quarter teaspoons of sugar that it contains. I asked the participants to look at the long list of gruesome ingredients as I talked about nutrition and brain health. After the talk, a staff person approached me. She meekly told me, that if kids get to school late, and miss the provided breakfast, they are given Pop-Tarts. Given the rewarding of non-tardy behavior to only one recipient at the other school, I surmise that no small number of kids are getting their brains doused with such artificial intelligence here. I felt like I was going to cry.  (We did come up with some alternative ideas for the school though.)

Oh well, no biggie. Maybe I was just sensitive because the day before that I had a new eating disordered client who was restricting herself to three hundred calories a day. Or, maybe it was the young diabetic who I had spent many teaching moments with, who came in the day before that with a high blood sugar of 227 and told me that she had a beef patty, some pringle like potato chip I had never heard of, three Oreos and a large-sized can of Arizona Green Tea for breakfast.

Perhaps, most disheartening though was the doctor who totally ignored my concerns about the severe dietary deficiencies of a patient we shared–whose support I really needed to facilitate her care. Like the scenarios I described above, this is really nothing new to me. Doctors untrained in nutrition, give short shrift to diet, except for some lip service when it comes to blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol. I am rather used to being ignored by physicians.

I do not expect my clients, my students, and even school administrators to fully get this whole food and nutrition thing given current conditions. Those with eating struggles would not have them if they were easily understood. Individual schools are not easily able to remedy foodservice limitations. Teachers have many other matters to attend to.

But, I do really expect that by now, even conventionally trained medical providers would appreciate the connection between diet and health and would give attention to meaningful dietary assessments in supporting the treatment of their patients. It is recognized that patients whose doctors inquire about their smoking habits and are told to quit have higher smoking cessation success. To help turn the tide on the nation’s health crisis, doctors’ true embracing of dietary health is essential. Last week, I really needed that doctor to express to our patient who was in the office, concern about her eating and to provide to her some basic nutritional supplements. Instead, out the door, the patient went, with a prescription for one more drug in hand and no mention of my recommendations. I slumped in my chair.

Usually, I can handle situations like this with more aplomb. Maybe I am just a bit depleted in B-vitamins which lowered my resilience. Never mind. Time to re-fortify. Onward.

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In health, Elyn