A Child’s Wisdom: When a fruit is not a fruit.

NBC Nightly News must have forgotten that childhood obesity (and the heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes that go along with it) has not gone away now that the economy is the media’s hottest topic.  At a time when so many kids (and their parents) are overfed and undernourished, here’s a program that means well, but misses some opportunities to teach children authentic lessons about how to make healthy choices, label reading and food marketing.

The snacks are purchased with money donated from residents and local businesses. I wonder if it’s possible to purchase healthy, whole foods from the school district’s nutrition and food services department (since most school cafeterias are required to generate income, that kind of partnership might be mutually beneficial), or to at least work with a nutritionist in the community to identify healthier choices. Maybe start a schoolyard garden and home garden movement to teach families how to feed themselves when times are tough?

The following comments made me hit the replay button. They point to a much bigger problem — the blind acceptance of nutrition claims and unhealthy attitudes about food:

“…Toaster pastries, apple sauce, granola bars…nutritious items the students can open themselves and eat without any preparation.”

“I like applesauce. I’m a big fruit fan — when it’s not fruit.”

(I don’t have anything against applesauce, necessarily, but apples are just as convenient, provide more nutrients, and help kids appreciate the fruit in it’s natural state.)

Harvester’s Community Food Bank here in Kansas City has a similar, but more nutritious, program called BackSnack.  Here’s what Ryan Kepley of Harvesters told me about their attempts to make BackSnacks as healthy as possible:

“Fresh produce is donated for our schools on a regular basis. We provide apples, oranges and bananas, and students almost always get whole wheat bread,” Kepley says. “But because backpacks aren’t refrigerated, produce needs to be fairly stable. There’s a 2-3 day lag time between when the produce is picked up and when it’s delivered to students.”

As for packaged foods, Harvester’s nutrition staff helps identify some nutrient dense choices: granola bars, juice, shelf-stable milk, and beef stew, for example.

This Friday, Harvester’s is hosting a donor recognition event to celebrate reaching 8030 kids each week through the BackSnack program! For information on the program or to find out how you can help, click here.

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