In a World Where Pizzas are Vegetables…

I remember a time when my grandmother told me to “eat all my spinach.” I would stare at it, push it around the plate, pretend that it was the disembodiment of the swamp thing that my fish bone had just stabbed to death. Ugh. Spinach.

My only salvation was when my mother would sigh heavily and, without a word, pass me the ketchup.

But I would eat it. Or I’d be told that dinner was over for me and I’d head off to my room to get ready for bed.

Today I love greens. I love greens more than most any food.

My grandfather kept a garden where he would grow the vegetables that were often found on our table. He was a surgeon but he still (or maybe it was because he was in the medical field) thought it was important to provide fresh produce for his family.

He composted, he fertilized, he weeded every Saturday afternoon in his shorts, knee-high socks and short sleeved button up shirt. His sun hat would hide his freckled face and cast a shadow over his pocket protector. Who says nerds can’t be good at sports?

Now that I have children of my own, it’s my turn to make them eat their spinach. We compost, we fertilize, we weed. I even feed them crazy things like cod liver oil and chia seeds. It’s not a hippy thing. It’s a health thing.

But five days a week, my kids spend several hours a day in public school. If I had it my way they wouldn’t… but that’s for another post.

The public school, located just across the street, feeds the neighborhood kids breakfast and lunch every day. None of them pay for it. I think they are supposed to, but the office lady looks irritated when I ask. Apparently nobody wants to keep track of who is supposed to pay and who isn’t. So they just feed them all.

I feed my children locally grown scrambled eggs, granola I craft myself and raw milk for breakfast and then send them over to where their classmates are eating sugar.

Coffee cake. French toast dippers. Frosted flakes and pasteurized, homogenized milk. The state knows how to feed our kids right.

There is a growing battle between state and parent in regards to who has the right to make decisions for a child’s welfare. In some states, parents are reporting that children are being forced to take a school lunch even when their parents send one with them. In my own experience, my son once had a chocolate flavored probiotic thrown in the trash by the teacher who said that “junk food was not allowed.”

There has been quite a legislative fight for our children’s stomachs over the past two years. The money behind the big business of mass produced “food” is a lot more substantial than those fighting for regulation. And then, in the end, it is legislators, not parents, who are deciding which foods are “healthy” and which foods are not. By the time children have been through a few years, most parents have given up attempting to send a lunch since the school hands them school lunches anyway. And… well… most kids who don’t want to “finish their spinach” will trash the brown bag for the nuggets.

Cafeteria food production and distribution is a lucrative business. Companies who want to market their foods to schools are always looking for a cheaper way to offer goods and services. Sometimes this is done at the expense of quality.

Big food producers more than doubled their financial investments in lobbying over the last three years. Meanwhile, The Center for Science and the Public Interest (the company responsible for most of the lobbying for stricter food guidelines) has also increased its spending, though not to anywhere near the same total amount.

The obesity rate in children has tripled in the last three decades, and while my children are not a part of that statistic, the future for their generation looks bleak against these facts. Raising rates in diabetes and heart diseases, expounded by the increase in obesity, foretells rising healthcare costs and lower life expectancies.

In order to make a compromise between the big businesses who feed our children and the big government who wants to make decisions on what our children eat, some regulatory changes were put into place. The government quietly cut funding from the agencies involved in regulating out the sugar, fat and salt from the big business “food” products. The government also decided to reclassify several food items as healthy. The most widely publicized of these changes was the reclassification of pizza as a vegetable.

If we continue on the same trajectory of centralized, government regulated healthcare and centralized, government regulated school food, I’m afraid we’re on a collision course for financial and health ruin.

Meanwhile, I will keep growing veggies. I recently went to the local nursery and asked to buy some pizza seeds so I could grow my own, but they were… apparently… out. So, I’ll stick with what I’ve got growing and buy unregulated foods from my neighbors. I’ll steer clear of things that come in pretty packages with ingredients I can’t pronounce. And this is what I will feed my children.

Because, ultimately, our health is our responsibility.