Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eat Your Vegetables

Recently, I came across a news story in which the US Congress named pizza as a vegetable. Now, I like pizza, and it can be relatively healthy depending on the crust type, sauce and toppings. But, no matter how much tomato paste or sauce, a vegetable it is not.

I suppose the thought behind such a ruling is that the tomato sauce under the cheese has enough actual tomatoes to qualify as a bona fide vegetable. And, with a one year old who is starting to have a more discriminating palate, I understand the concept behind strategically and covertly placing vegetables in food (we have to do the same thing to Elizabeth with meat!). To suppose that getting kids to eat real vegetables is impossible is defeatist. To suppose that encouraging the consumption of pizza as a replacement for vegetables is immoral.

Making a pizza and passing it off as a vegetable is undoubtedly cheaper and unhealthier than securing and preparing fresh and unprocessed vegetables.

This is yet another example of our country's woeful treatment of its children. It is another example of big business dictating what's best for us. It's another example of our country's stubbornness to change to meet the best interest of its children.

For example, research proves that a long summer break makes it harder for students to retain knowledge. Yet, summer breaks remain and will most likely never be replaced with year round (interspersed with more frequent, albeit smaller breaks) school. We know that recess and physical activity is good to combat childhood obesity and is a good stress relief, especially for our sedentary and technologically dependent society. Still, many schools are cutting such programs because of a lack of funds. The arts can inspire, enliven, improve behavior, and increase math scores. Sadly, many schools have eliminated the fine and performing arts classes and clubs.

Bankers who needed government bailouts live in excess. We pay millions of dollars to professional athletes and hundreds to see them play insignificant (with all due respect to the Patriots and Giants) games. News stories are sensationalized to attract the largest viewing audience. Potential political candidates raise and spend millions of dollars trying to sway votes. Once elected they pass legislation to call pizza a vegetable.

We waste millions of dollars but can't seem to find the money to do what's best for our kids.

America is a great country, the greatest in the world. But, in order to remain this way and not get left behind by other countries who have somehow managed to give health care to all citizens and educate students to be some of the top thinkers and innovators in the world, we must do more than lower our standards for our children's health and overall well-being. Doing something as simple as involving children in the production and preparation of vegetables and other healthy foods can make them more interested in trying them (ICS Garden). But, school gardens cost money. Taking the time to teach children about their health benefits and ways in which they can be prepared takes effort.

Money, time, effort. We sacrifice these things for so many less important things. We must be willing to sacrifice them for the sake of our children.

If not, we may as well save Congress some time and taxpayers some dollars by declaring Jolly Ranchers candy a fruit.