Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to lose friends and alienate people...

Here's a blinding glimpse of the obvious...We're an overweight country. Come on, we're a nation that brags about deep-frying Snickers bars; how did we think this mini-drama was going to play out? We eat the wrong stuff, and too much of it. Adding to our misery; far too often, we don't get off our butts and move enough. This is something I know about firsthand. I just polished off a burrito for breakfast, blew off my morning walk, and now plan on spending the next 2 hours parked on my fat ass reading about the awful things that everyone else is doing, so I can complain about them later. Really. Maybe I'll take a break in a few minutes to get some cheesy puffs, but only if it's not too much trouble to walk to the kitchen. Some people are making totally decent, well-intentioned efforts to deal with the problem. I think Michelle Obama and her endeavors to educate children and parents on making healthier choices belong in this category. The operative word here is CHOICE. (On the other hand, Sarah Palin's snarky efforts to mis-quote and misrepresent her actions have made it easy to keep front and center the fact that Sarah has raised being a sham to an art form.) Some mornings, you sit down to the daily news and see that sometimes, people who allegedly have the best intentions end up doing things that are so stupid they alienate those who would otherwise be supporters, and actually turn people away from the very cause they're fighting for. I'm talking about the Little Village Academy, a public school on Chicago's west side, and the decision of Principal Elsa Carmona to no longer allow students to bring their lunches from home. That's right, if you happen to be enrolled in Little Village Academy, and you want to eat lunch, you're forced to eat the crap they serve up on campus. Ms. Carmona explained that the decision was made after she observed the poor choices some students were making. (soft drinks and flaming hot chips) Evidently, after experiencing the choices made by the district's food provider, Chartwells-Thompson, some students decided it was better to simply skip lunch entirely. The 'healthy' lunches served up are considered inedible by many, and the school's choice to ban lunches from home has outraged students, parents, and a variety of observers. This was a really dumb thing to do, on many levels. First off...Ms. Carmona should remember that she is in the business of 'educating' people. If she wants to set a good example, accomplish the goal to get kids to eat healthier, and truly make some changes that will last, she should have set out to educate both students and parents on easy and economical ways they could make better food choices. There is lots of support out there for this kind of thinking. There are lots of people who are doing it right. She could have followed the successful leads of Michelle Obama, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, or David Zinczenko's 'Eat This, Not That'. She could have led the kids on a path that would have empowered them, and their parents to make smarter choices rather than dictating policy that is surely in process of backfiring in her face. The fact that, given the problem, her best solution was to outlaw home-packed lunches leaves me with the realization that this is another example of why some schools are in deep trouble. If this is the kind of brain trust responsible for making choices in today's tough environment, we're screwed. Not only did she miss a great teachable moment and the opportunity to have a positive impact on a serious issue, but her solution has a questionable motive. In a district with a significant number of low-income children, the issue of cost for school provided lunches is part of the problem. A non-subsidized cost of $2.25 per meal per day is simply more than many families can afford. If they do qualify for assistance, then guess what? Federal dollars get kicked in to...wait for it...the food provider; Chartwells. Isn't that special? Maybe in reality, people can do more with their own dollars, and instead of just putting the hammer down and saying it's my way or the highway, we could use a little imagination and intelligence and provide the tools to help parents who may not know about better nutrition. Besides the fact that this is one of those sneaky-funnel-public-dollars-into-private-for-profit-businesses, this pisses me off because it's one of those incredibly stupid actions that will set the cause of fighting childhood obesity back years. On top of everything else...it's a bad financial decision. The fact that so many of the cafeteria meals are ending up in the trash and not providing better nutrition is infuriating. How about they start penalizing the meal provider for all the food that's not fit to eat? I don't want to hear that if you're hungry, you'll eat. That's as much garbage as the folks at Chartwells are trying to dump on the plates at Little Village Academy. Take a look...http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-school-lunch-2c.jpg-20110410,0,4595560.photo Funny how the photo snapped by the Chicago Tribune looks a hell of a lot different that the ones posted on the Chartwells website. It's ridiculous that this is going to set off the conservative wing-nut voice boxes again, ranting about the 'nanny state' and lumping everyone who wants to address the obesity problem in with this group of idiots in Chicago. There are a whole bunch of us, lib-left-wing types who think that this is one of the worst decisions ever. Stupid is stupid. This one is so dumb, it made me lose my appetite.

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