Welcome back! Last week, we took a moment to think about mindfulness (see what I did there?). If you missed this blog, you can see it by clicking HERE.
This week, we discuss what the school’s may be feeding our children. Do you know what your kids are eating for lunch at school? Please welcome Dr. Charles Ross, a DO and somewhat of an expert in plant based diets.
Let’s grab A Cup of Coffee and see what he has to say…
What Are the Schools Feeding Our Children?
This year, in March, I was invited to a school board meeting to discuss the food that is being served to our community’s children. I hope that our community representatives understand that what we eat is the number one cause of death, and the number one cause of disability in our country. Heart disease is our number one killer, and all children in the US have the beginnings of heart disease by age 10. Looking around the world and evaluating the most current science reveals that a whole food plant-based diet (composed of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) with minimal processing leads to the healthiest populations. In the 1900’s our diet consisted of over 60 grams of fiber…now our intake is less than 14. For every 10 grams of fiber we add to our diet we decrease our heart attack risk by 10%, breast cancer risk by 8%, and colon cancer risk by 10%. Fiber comes only from plant sources.
Our food has been processed to make it be more convenient. But the added salt, sugar, and fat that make these foods so addictive has led to an epidemic of over-weight and chronic disease. In 2017 the American Medical Association passed a resolution that all US hospitals should be serving plant-based meals that are low in added sugar, salt and fat. That resolution also included eliminating all processed meats. The World Health Organization has issued an advisory that all processed meats are Class 1 carcinogens. That means that there is strong evidence that these processed foods cause cancer just like cigarettes and asbestos. Last month California became the first state in the US to mandate that all health care facilities and prisons in that state will serve plant-based meals at every meal time. It appears California has studied the recent science and discovered a path to improve the health of its population and save money on medical expenses. Organizations around the world are now promoting plant-based diets to improve the health of their people and reduce the environmental effects of the standard American diet (meat/sweet diet).
The food industries are in business to make a profit. Their bottom line is money…not our children’s health. These industries have powerful lobbyists who influence our government’s food recommendations. This has led to subsidized foods (like the processed meats that cause cancer) being supplied to our schools at reduced cost. But that is reduced cost to the school’s budget. The school saves money….but our children develop cancer in the future. Does anyone find this money saving on the front end worth the cost to our children in the long run?
My goal is to spread evidence-based knowledge on the science of healthy nutrition. It is time to stop the confusion that has spread with a lot of internet hype and confused the public. I realize that change can be difficult. But this issue is too important for our community’s children to be ignored. There are studies that show that feeding children healthy food options both improves their test scores and reduces hyperactivity and behavioral disorders (check out the book… Fast Food Genocide by Joel Fuhrman MD). Other schools throughout the country have already begun this transition. Isn’t it time for your community to discuss this issue? Perhaps a town hall meeting would be a valuable format where the community could discuss this?
Maybe interested community members could contact the school board members to see what action is being taken to eliminate cancer producing foods from the children’s menus and how your community might transition to less processed foods.
Charles Ross DO
If you don’t do anything else today, please watch this short 2 minute video…and then just think about it.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would like to comment on your statement, “I don’t necessarily agree that a vegan diet is the way to go for most children whose brains are in the final stages of developing”; the fatty acid issue.
So where do you get your essential fatty acids? I hope that you are discussing with the parents that the fish that they are serving their kids as often contaminated by mercury, dioxin, and other pollutants. Since the fish are high on the food chain, contaminants are very highly concentrated in comparison to sea vegetables. I personally get fatty acids from ground flax seeds, walnuts, and sea vegetables (dulse and wakame). And I encourage children and family members to get their fatty acids from whole food plant based sources to avoid the contaminants from the animal sources. The whole food plant based children I have interacted with are healthy and happy kids….and their brains seem to be functioning quite well. Bye the way, I do not encourage a vegan diet as I have seen too many junk food vegans;eating much too much processed oils and sugars.
Thank you for your response, Dr. Ross!
I agree that schools give children highly processed food (= junk food), but I don’t necessarily agree that a vegan diet is the way to go for most children whose brains are still in the final stage of developing. (Remember? Essential fatty acids? Many are not found in a vegan diet.)
A chef in New York City is advocating that the various culinary institutes take over the school systems’ cafeterias. They have to train future chefs on nutrition and business of restauranteering, so why not negotiate contracts with them? They don’t pay for the labor because they’re students. In Minnesota, a caterer demonstrated that she can take the monies per student and exchange it for very healthy, zero-processed foods the kids do like. When told what the dollars-per-head was per student, the aforementioned chef laughed, stating that was more than sufficient for healthy and great-tasting food for the students. And as that Minnesotan caterer demonstrated, kids LIKE good food and appreciated the salad bar with REAL lettuce.
I think this is a win-win situation. As for special-diet students, do what I had to do. I BROUGHT MY OWN, SEVERELY-RESTRICTED LUNCHBOX!! I survived and did well.
I totally agree that many behavioral problems will be reduced. The Minnesotan caterer catered the school where all the “problem students” went to. It was amazing how well these kids did. She stated that many students told her that their meds were reduced and some were fortunate enough to eliminate them. (I’m not into medication for ADHD and the like, and most of the time, it isn’t necessary if the diet is maintained. And before I hear arguments poo-pooing diet aiding ADHD students, my brother and I did just fine!)
But we need to stop preaching to the choir. We need to discuss this matter with school boards! Check out https://www.citylab.com/life/2018/09/can-this-chef-solve-the-problem-of-school-lunch/568990/
Here’s another article to read: https://shelburnefarms.org/blog/restaurant-to-cafeteria-why-i-became-a-school-food-chef
Time to get off the can and do something for our kids! Complacency be damned!
Bravo! Thanks for sharing!