I think it was a coincidence, but this weekend the 2004 documentary “Super Size Me” showed up on cable. Since the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization consumed much of my work last week, it somehow seemed appropriate to review filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s assault on McDonalds and its influence on an increasingly overweight and unhealthy American population.
It had been several years since my husband and I had watched Morgan spend 30 days of his life eating three meals a day from McDonalds menus and documenting the impact on his body (a gain of almost 25 lbs., plus a fatty liver issues, depression, and an addiction to high-fat, high carbohydrate food). The experimentwhile extremedid make us question our own eating habits and bemoan all the fast food we’d consumed in our earlier years.
What we’d both forgotten was that Morgan didn’t spend his entire 30 days investigating McDonaldsalong the way on his cross-country trip, he visited several schools. At a West Virginia elementary school, he toured a school cafeteria freezer with a cook who showed him the vats of frozen, high-fat processed foods sent by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the federal school lunch program.
The worker explained that she and her colleagues rarely made food from scratch but merely reheated items such as barbeque pork sandwiches. Morgan also interviewed students at a Wisconsin high school who cobbled together lunches of French fries, potato chips, candy bars, and high sugar drinks from the school’s cafeteria line and vending machines.
NSBA is quite concerned, and rightly so, about the implementation of the soon-to-be signed legislation, which sets new nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools and requires new training for food service workers, among many other things. (See NSBA’s letter to Congress, here, and the story in School Board News.) Schools already are struggling with downsized budgets and the proposed federal reimbursement rate won’t come close to meeting these new costs, and the most successful models have been initiated by communities and school boards.
While some have tried to make this into a “ban the bake sales” debate (Lucy Gettman, NSBA’s director of federal programs, deftly avoided a debate on that issue on Fox News this morning)
I’m pretty convinced that the more people learn about the importance of childhood nutrition and instilling good habits in young children, they will find ways to make this soon to be new law work. As Lucy mentioned, just about everyone agrees on the goals of the legislation, and school board members know that healthier, happier kids perform better in school. Perhaps “Super Size Me” should be required viewing at all parent orientation sessions.
Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor