by R.B. Cooper | May 6, 2014 4:13 pm
Childhood obesity is an epidemic in America. There is very little debate over this fact, and you can find decades of data to support it. In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama made it her platform and spear-headed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and Let’s Move to ensure the government is doing what it can to help families combat this deadly disease. While the new school lunch program has its critics, I applaud her efforts and am thankful, as a parent, the schools are now offering healthier choices. Although the program might need a few tweaks–which is understandable given the extensive change in core eating principles–it is definitely a step in the right direction.
Because children are involved in this crisis, we should analyze everything possible that can be done to combat this wide-spread epidemic. According to the National Institute of Health, our government has identified a multi-phase approach to help fight childhood obesity, including family, school, community, and government-based interventions. The plan is a comprehensive, multi-prong approach designed to address the issue from multiple angles. However, a surprising fact is this intervention does not include perhaps one of the most effective mechanisms: limiting the food items available for purchase with the SNAP program, otherwise known as ‘Food Stamps’.
Why does the SNAP program allow the purchase of energy drinks, sodas, and candy? Why are pre-packaged, processed foods and cereals that are high in sugar and preservatives allowed? According to a recent study, children in the SNAP program consume 43% more sugar-sweetened beverages, 47% more high-fat dairy, and 44% more processed meats, but 19% fewer nuts, seeds, and legumes. The study concluded “the diets of low-income children are far from meeting national dietary recommendations“.
One might argue that healthy food costs more than processed and prepackaged foods. Others might say these are often single-parent households, and therefore cooking healthy meals is not always an option. However, it is imperative that we analyze these facts and look for answers that help solve this problem, rather than accept excuses. It is a fact that preparing a meal using fresh meat and produce is far less expensive than packaged meals. You can easily prepare a meal for less than $10 that will last two or even three days in some households.
Everyone is busy and with all the convenience options available we all struggle to make the right decision when it comes to feeding ourselves and our children. We must take a step back and look at the big picture. We can spend a few extra minutes each week preparing meals for our family, or spend a lifetime combating obesity and nutrition-related illnesses because we chose the easy way rather than the healthy way of eating.
The government is doing its part by helping children make healthier choices at school; it’s time they help parents make healthier choices at home. A good first step would be to ensure the SNAP program restricts processed, unhealthy foods while encouraging healthy food choices. There will no doubt be back-lash from soda and junk-food giants like Kraft, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, as there has been in the past, but it’s time to right this wrong.
Our children are our future, so let’s stop letting big business make the decision about what’s best to feed them. Stop the madness and feed our children real food.
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