I see there has been a bit of a stash between the usual suspects about Anne Tolley's decision to remove a national directive requiring all schools to serve only healthy food and beverage options. The argument basically boils down gunning down the evil lunchbox nazis versus the evil corporations trying to make our kids blow up like blimps in order to turn a quick buck.
Stuck in the middle of this are the parents who trying to do their best for their kids. I was one of those annoying kids who wouldn’t eat the ‘healthy lunches’ my mum packed. At one stage I had a whole month's worth of fruit in various states of decay under my bed which was the breaking point for my mother. I made my own lunch from then on except for the a once-a-week treat of buying from the school tuckshop and yes, I usually ordered a pie or something equally 'bad' to eat. So I'm hazarding a guess that many parents particularly those dealing with fussy eaters really don't want to deal with any more shit about their kids' eating habits. Having lived with a fussy eater to end them all, getting the kid to eat SOMETHING let alone eat all the right things is so torturous that you would rather walk buck naked down Queen Street doing the chicken dance I've got to side with them.
My question is why did what we eat and in particular what kids consume become such a source of conflict? It totally baffles me as to why such a pleasurable activity as eating should be creating so many headlines and angst. Undoubtedly my experience colours my perspective. Eating meals together as often as possible was always big thing growing up and with a big family it was always case of eat or be eaten. More recently I've lived with the Suit where we have attained such a level of food geekiness that alongside 'regular cooking' homemade breads, pizza, pasta noodles, sorbets are often found in my kitchen.
I'm sure I'm not alone. I once read somewhere that when people emigrate to a strange land the last of the traditions of the 'mother country' to die is always the food. And that makes sense. Food marks our big occasions. What is a birthday or wedding for that matter without some form of cake? Graduation always seem to include a lunch/breakfast on the parents' dime. Christmas has a whole raft of foods attached to it and you betcha I'll be chowing down on my chocolate bunny at Easter. But somewhere along the line these foods became bad.
Of course the 'obesity epidemic' is the reason there is so much hysteria around promoting 'healthy' eating patterns. One critical component missing from this discussion is the other end of the weight spectrum were anorexia and bulimia are still taking (predominately) young girls' lives with no concern to their well being yet these eating disorders take lives and a lot more quickly than a size 16 ass.
Moreover not letting kids have the slightest opportunity to make their own decisions about food turns food into a control issue. Kids who are surrounded by adults angsting about their eating seem to develop two coping strategies. 'Bad food' immediately becomes forbidden fruit that they gorge themselves on the minute they can get away from the domineering adults or they just stop eating as a way to stick it to their parents. Neither of these outcomes actually promotes a positive relationship with food nor does it aid kids to develop good eating patterns as adults.
Because lets face it this angsting over food isn't something that magically goes away when you’re an adult. The big fast food chains with their fries that on a bad day I swear are laced with heroin are always there to tempt you while the anti-obesity scare factories that we are too fat and just a few chocolate cookies away from death's door. Add in the body bashing that makes up the bulk of the content in most women's magazines not to mention the odd article in serious publications and you find many adults struggle to maintain a 'healthy' relationship with food themselves.
In many ways the anti-junk food movement reminds me of those anti-sex education campaigners who think the very mention of anything reproductively related around children will turn them into sex-crazed maniacs. Both groups do children a huge disservice by sheltering them from every evil in the world. Like it or not decision-making is a skill that is learned with practice and I firmly believe children should be practicing it from the time they are small. I would hazard a guess that the same people who want to ban junk food from well everywhere are generally the same people who don't let their kids play outside for fear of skin cancer/bee stings/accidents/abduction etc.
I realize that for most parents these fears are very real as too is the burn of being labeled a bad parent for not watching over your kids 24/7. But I wonder if this increase in our collective asses, particularly of kids, has come about by removing the freedom for them to run around and burn off some of those pies. Not to mention letting our bodies and brains rather than industries, fast food or otherwise, guide us as to what we should put in our mouths. Because like sex, food is something to be enjoyed not to be ashamed of.