If after eating Food Substitute X, you are still craving Real Food Y, then Food Substitute X was not worth eating.
CNN is running a story highlighting a recent report that children’s quality of life in the US is on the decline. There are a lot of factors that play into this study, but they directly pointed out:
“There is also potential for an uptick in obesity as families with tight budgets move toward lower quality food because of the recession, Land said. Healthy foods tend to be expensive, while processed and fast foods are cheaper and more readily available to some families.
Community engagement will go down as school districts reduce the employment of teachers and cut back programs. The amount of time spent in school may even go down; in 2009, Hawaii became the first state to move to four-day school weeks to save money in the recession.”
As you can see, the declining budgets in schools have not only the possibility to impact the amount of exercise kids get, but could end up with schools moving to cheaper processed foods. So with children eating worse at home, and at school, can we really afford to also cut back on gym time? If we do, what kind of bargain are we making? Save now in the moment and pay later with a lifetime of ill health and higher medical expenses, not to mention a shorter lifespan?
It’s time to act to prevent this from happening.
Exercise every day? I know that seems a bit much. Can there really be a benefit to exercising every day? Maybe I’m just the kind of guy who likes to exercise. I mean, I do, but is it really important to exercise EVERY DAY?
And I’m not the only person who feels that way. More and more, doctors are calling for daily activity, even for kids. The Mayo Clinic calls for at least 30 minutes every day. The NIH says it as well. And there are wonderful physical benefits from exercise every day, being stronger, having a stronger heart, being more flexible, you’re less likely to break bone later in life, etc. But it’s not just about the immediate health benefits of the exercise itself that are important. Exercise helps you sleep better at night. Exercise helps you age better, and can stave off mental decline as you get older. Exercise helps you to relax and feel a sense of peace, even on busy hectic days. Exercise gets you outside and not stuck in the house. Exercise helps you meet other people. The long-term benefits of daily exercise greatly outweigh any of the objections that can be reasonably raised, and at all ages.
For kids, exercise, gym class, sports helps kids get to know their peers. It helps them to gain coordination. It helps them figure out how to work together and solve problems as a group. It teaches them how to work towards a goal. It can give them a sense of accomplishment. Yes, they can get these things in other places, but to couple these benefits together with all the wonderful physical things exercise does, makes it all the more important that we get kids doing it right now.
But wait, there’s MORE! It is said that it only takes 21 days of repeated effort to turn something into a habit. And once you develop the habit of doing something good for yourself, you’ve won most of the fight. Having the habit makes it easier to stick with it. It feels like second nature.
Which is why I want the schools to have gym every day. If kids get in the habit of running, playing, being active every single day, not just at recess, but in gym as well, then it will be become habit. It will feel natural for them to get out and exercise each and every day.
And I don’t mean lifting weights or plyometrics or “serious” exercise. Going out and playing soccer for 30 minutes with your friends is as good as jogging, or better. Playing dodgeball, climbing a rock wall (or a tree), kickball, they all give you the benefits of health, and clarity, and longevity, getting beaned in the head in dodgeball aside. And if it happens in school, it will happen, because it will be built into a consistent schedule.
So this is why I’m seeking gym every day in schools. And I encourage you to get out there and exercise every day as well.
You won’t believe how wonderful you feel in just 21 days.
There are a few quick and easy way to get some real food in your life:
- Buy a share of Community Supported Agriculture. Community Supported Agriculture is where a farm sells a portion of their product directly to people in the community instead of to stores or processors. They typically offer different sized shares for different families. Some ask that you come help at the farm and even give you a discount if you do. Others just sell you the food directly. Some of the farms that offer CSAs are the very same ones that sell to the grocery stores, but you’re often getting it cheaper and fresher than your store does because it doesn’t have to go some central warehouse to be redistributed. Another wonderful thing about CSA shares is that you are never quite sure what you’re going to get. This gives you a chance to stretch your culinary skills as you adapt to the new items you get.
- Shop at a Farmer’s Market. A lot of towns have a local farmer’s market these days, and it’s a great place to get some real food. Not only are there farmers selling their wares, but other foodies as well: bakers, butchers, coffee roasters, cheese makers, and they’re all making it fresh, and selling it directly to you. The bread you get at your local megamart is nothing like the taste of a fresh warm bread made from four simple ingredients: water, yeast, flour, and salt that has just come out of the oven. Go, shop your farmers market. You’ll be surprised and impressed.
- Shop the edges at your local grocery store. If you can’t or won’t go to the CSA, and the farmers market is not your thing, you can still minimize the amount of junk in your house by shopping the edges of your grocery store. What do I mean by this? Well, picture your store. It’s probably a big rectangle. At one end are the fruits and vegetables. At the other side is probably the milk and dairy. At the back end are the typically the butcher, and the deli. Where’s all the junk food? In the middle aisles. If you just shop the edges, buying fresh vegetables, fresh meats, and skip everything in the center, you’ve gotten real food in your house.
If you’re interested in a CSA, look online. Two very good ones in the Harrisburg area are:
And Spiral Path Farm
I wanted to put together my thoughts on what I mean by “real food.” If I’m going to be pushing for it in the schools, and advocating it to families, then I should have an easy-to-understand definition. And for this, I actually prefer to paraphrase something Jamie Oliver said:
“If you read the list of ingredients, and it sounds like your grandma’s kitchen, then serve it. If it sounds like it came from a lab, throw it out.”
At first glance, this may sound a touch simplistic, and a little dangerous even, since it’s not unknown for grandmas to work their magic with Wondra Flour or Gravy Master, and both of these are products of the processed food age, but what Oliver was saying was, if you look at the back, and you can find all of the whole ingredients in Grandma’s pantry, then use it, otherwise, it’s not fit to serve. And both Wondra Flour and Gravy Master are not fit to serve. Gravy Master is made with, in part, hydrolyzed soy protein and corn protein. Grandma doesn’t have or make a batch of hydrolyzed soy protein, unless she’s busy boiling tofu in sulfuric acid, and then treating it with caustic soda. (Maybe Grandma works in a lab?)
So, the rule really is, if it doesn’t sound like something you could make at home without enlisting a lot of chemicals, you probably shouldn’t use it.
And for the record, I’m not sure where that leaves lutefisk. Debate still rages as to whether it should be classified a food at all.
The Pennsylvania Board of Education has approved a preliminary proposal that would require all schools to fit in an additional 30 minutes of physical activity every day. This is good news, and it means that I’m not the only one who feels this is important. However, just because the Board of Education is calling for it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It is still up to individual school boards to act on this, and many school boards will point to existing health and wellness policies and talk about their existing compliance.
Worse yet, Florida tried this same policy last year, and many parents immediately opted their children out of additional exercise in favor of other activities, like music and art.
What we need to make sure is that the additional 30 minutes of exercise they’re proposing does not take the place of these other special activities, and, that parents aren’t easily given the opportunity to let their children skip out. What I don’t want is to see is schools forced to offer one or the other, because if the choice is between the arts or exercise, everyone loses out.
In the time it takes for you to read this, 3 people will have died in this country from an obesity-related disease.
822 people die of obesity-related diseases every year. That’s one person every two minutes. And that number is only going to go higher. Because this will be the first generation of American children who will have a shorter life than their parents. The CDC estimates that this current generation of children will live five years less than the parents who raised them. How can this be? We theoretically live in a time that should offer them the best standard of living and the best health, but our modern way of life is killing them. Processed foods, no exercise, neighborhoods of McMansions in sprawling subdivisions that keep kids apart, the constant gnawing fear that if we let kids outside for a minute to play on their own they will be preyed upon, days lived in front of the TV, all of these contribute to the problem. Rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity have been on the rise, from less than 5% of kids in the 70s to more than 15% of children in 2008. This is the biggest health disaster in our lifetime. And it is one we’ve brought upon ourselves.
Things must change. Now. We’ve made the disease, now it’s the time to make the cure.
Change must be made at home, where parents have to put more emphasis on eating better, eating as a family, and getting more exercise. Parents need to be made more aware of how the example they set, and the things they bring in the house with them influence their children. But changes must also be made in schools. 180 days of the year, children spend at least 8 hours at school. And yet schools are cutting back on gym classes and trying to save money by buying cheaper unhealthy processed foods.
The time to act is now. And I’m going to start with the schools. I can’t tell people how to live in their own homes. I can’t and won’t mandate the need for better habits at home. But, I can demand changes at the schools. So I am:
1. Start serving real food in the schools now! There is no reason why, in this State, never mind this country, we have to favor processed food made in a factory and shipped long distances, over the plethora of foods farmers grow every single day. That’s why I’m going to be pushing to have real food served in the cafeterias of schools across the State. Real food, made fresh, and when possible, grown locally in PA. There are over 55,000 farms in this State alone, and we are one of the biggest agricultural exporters in the United States. It’s time to fill our schools with the fruit, the vegetables, the milk, the eggs, and the meat grown all around us.
2. Gym class every day! There is also no reason why physical activity has to be limited. Physical activity should be increased. Kids should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. That’s why I’m asking all schools in Pennsylvania to have a daily gym class. Schools that have implemented gym every day have seen an improvement in children’s attention spans, performance in school, and a reduction in aggressive behavior.
That’s it. Real food in schools, and gym every day. Two small changes will change the world. And I need your help.
If you want to help, if you agree, email me, and let me know. Leave a comment at the bottom. The more we work together, the quicker we can get the changes we want. That I want. That you should want, for all the children in your town, in this State, in this Country.
This is my mission.
This is why I’m here.