Monday, January 28, 2013

Eat Your Vegetables!

I had the chance to participate in a nuclear science workshop for Girl Scouts this weekend and it was really fun! I love teaching young students about nuclear science and doing fun activities with them. I also think it's important to get young girls excited about science so they're not afraid to pursue it as a career. I don't get to hang out with kids very often so it's nice to meet some young girls that look up to you. Anyway, I had a chance to eat lunch with some of the girls and their packed lunches got me thinking about what parents are feeding their kids.

Some of you may have heard of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution in either the UK or US. Jamie Oliver is a famous UK chef who has worked hard with his foundation to try to curb childhood obesity by revitalizing the food that is served in schools. He worked with the school district in Huntington, WV, in the first season and then took his fight to L.A. in the second season, where he was met with a lot of resistance. I especially liked a scene in which Jamie Oliver was chasing kids and telling them to "Eat your vegetables!" I strongly believe in his cause and you should watch his TED Talk below:

When I sat down to eat my lunch with a few 4th-grade girls, I unpacked my quinoa salad from my lunch box and was immediately met with a couple of questionable gazes and asked "What is that?" So I explained to the girls that I was eating quinoa (one of them had actually heard of it), with lots of veggies and that it was healthy. One of the girls then exclaimed that she also likes to eat healthy and then held up her packaged blueberry muffin and said "this is good for me." I'm not kidding! She said that her sugar-filled, white-flour, probably-doesn't-even-have-real-blueberries packaged muffin was good for her! The rest of the girls then proceeded to show me some things in their lunches that they thought were healthy, including Cheez-Its, string cheese, and a white-bread sandwich with deli meat. Not a single girl had a single vegetable in her packed lunch. Not even lettuce on a sandwich! I could have lectured the girls on how important it was to eat their vegetables and such, but it's not my place to interfere with parenting. 

And then, later in the day, we gave the girls candy as prizes in a Jeopardy game. I felt really bad about doing this and I was trying to think of alternatives to candy that would get kids excited enough. The problem is that a kid would do just about anything for a piece of candy, and not the same for an apple. I'm going to have to brainstorm more about cheap prizes for kids for these types of events.

Since my own days in school I hadn't really experienced firsthand the children's food problem that Jamie Oliver is trying to fix. Seeing the girls eat their packed lunches really opened my eyes to the misconceptions about food that are being taught to kids by their parents, teachers, the government, and the food industry. Blueberry muffins and Cheez-Its are healthy? No wonder there is a childhood obesity epidemic. 

Do you feed your kids fresh fruits and veggies?

If you're a teacher, I'm curious to know what's being taught in school about nutrition?

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