The Times West Virginian

January 13, 2013

Should government take more control over food?


Times West Virginian

— I found my daughter standing in front of the fridge one day, hands on hips and face screwed into a sour look.

“What’s wrong?” I asked a little panicked.

“I’m trying to understand why they would ruin pigs in a blanket!” she shouted, stomping out of the kitchen.

As she flew out of the room, I looked at the school menu hanging in its regular place on the refrigerator. There was her grief ... whole-wheat pigs in a blanket. Once she calmed down, I asked what her issue was with whole wheat pigs in a blanket.

“First they took away my apple juice, Mom, and now everything is whole wheat. What’s next?!?!?”

Yes, she’s quite dramatic. And yes, she is that upset about not having the apple juice option. And true to her anger, she protests whenever anything “whole wheat” is on the menu by bringing cold lunch. I’ll pack her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread, honey wheat and not whole wheat though. And she’ll get a 100 percent juice box, a piece of fruit, a few chips and a little something sweet. And she’s asked for cold lunch a lot this year.

At first, I was touched because I believed it was because of the little handwritten notes of love and encouragement I always place in her lunch box with the napkin. But I’ve come to realize it’s more about the new nutritional guidelines than anything else.

And schools are working under tighter guidelines for nutrition. At the start of the school year, the USDA made very strict guidelines for caloric and sodium intake, as well as increasing the servings of fruits and vegetables. Sorry Jayme, but apple juice probably doesn’t count. Originally, failing to meet these guidelines would have put school districts as risk for getting that all-important federal subsidy per meal, which keeps the hot lunch programs going nationwide. But lot of kids, more than just my little girl, and lots of parents are fighting against these new standards and say the change should have been more gradual.

Could be that it is a way to fight the obesity crisis in this nation, which adds $190 billion to federal funded medical programs and kills 400,000 people per year. And considering that for far too many children, meals eaten at school constitute the only nutritious food they consume all week, it’s understandable that wanting to establish good eating habits in the young will create a generation of adults who value whole grain and lots of fruits and vegetables.

Or, it will just create a generation of Jaymes, who would rather pack their lunches, which aren’t regulated at all.

First New York City and now other metropolitan cities are considering a ban on “supersize” drinks, outlawing the sale of drinks larger than 16 ounces. So it begs the question ... “Do you think the federal government should take a bigger role in the sale and consumption of ‘junk’ food?” And that’s exactly the question we asked our readers on our online poll question, which can be found each week at www.timeswv.com. And here’s what you had to say:

• Establishing good eating habits in schools with federally funded lunches and warning consumers about fat and caloric intake just aren’t enough. Ban super sizing — 8.49 percent

• Education, research and marketing better food habits are effective. We need time to change our lifestyle — 13.21 percent

• I don’t want to live in a country where Big Brother watches the food that goes in your mouth — 78.3 percent

Good luck prying our large pops out of our hands, right?

This week, let’s talk about the thing on everyone’s mind ... who’s the best person to go up against Shelley Moore Capito now that U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has announced that he will not seek another term in the Senate in 2014.

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond directly online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV