Saturday, October 01, 2005

Nutrition and a way of life

Last night, on one of my favorite news programs Nightline, the discussion was about the schools in England and the progressive descent into obesity for children over the past 20 years. 20 years ago, private contractors were considered the most cost-effective approach to providing food for school children. England's childhood obesity rate rivals America's and Jamie Oliver, the famed "Naked Chef", was hired to consult and create a healthier cuisine for school children. Hamburgers and french fries were the staple and children had no idea what vegetables were. The education has begun, but all of England is yet to experience what Jon Donvan described as a 'revolution'.

In our state, Huckabee has been promoting the same good sense and revolutionary change in the diets of our fat children. He overcame obesity and diabetes to the healthy life. He finally caved on the junk food issue, but that isn't where the battle ends. The body-mass-index instituted as a rating for school children where their parents can begin to accept healthy eating at home. As a child growing up in E. Arkansas, the family staples were beans, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Always, some meat would be added to the table and perhaps another vegetable like green beans, fried okra, or fried squash, or fried zucchini would be added. We would eat biscuits, gravy, eggs, sausage, or bacon some nights. Practically everything we ate was starchy or greasy. Much needs to be learned in Arkansas because my family's staples were the staples of many other children I knew growing up.

My saving grace was athletics. I participated in baseball, track, or football until I was in my 20's. Today, cycling (off-r0ad and trail) is my primary activity. During the rainy season, I love paddle-sports, but still cycle. It keeps the weight off and I've changed my diet to include all sorts of fruits and vegetables exceeding the prescribed minimums and I am able to improve my diet with thrift(no excuses about how expensive fruits and vegetables are). I still love the old Southern staples, but I've taught myself not to indulge on a daily basis. Teaching a way of life is crucial to overcoming the dangerous nutritional trends of junk food and the cuisine of our region. New Orleans cooking is the best I've ever eaten, but if I ate that wonderful Cajun, Creole, Southern cuisine regularly, my body would be much fatter. The public schools are the first line of defense against dreadfully fattening cuisine, since most children attend public schools. Hopefully, many of the religious schools and other private schools get the same message and begin preparing children for healthy lifestyles and healthy eating.

I am pleased by the trend in Arkansas schools. Our children DESERVE the best possible education and healthy eating and exercise prepare the mind to learn and allow more attention to be paid and more effort expended to learn. If we fail our children in the schools, we've failed them for a lifetime. I hope the momentum of school reforms continues after the guv bids farewell to the office. Beebe, Asa(!), or Halter MUST continue the good work in Arkansas for the sake of our future and teaching children good habits might spread to the adults we've failed in the past and promote good for all. This is NO political debate; it's a human welfare debate.


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