Soda was everywhere.
In my last three years working with schools I have never seen such a high rate of soda consumption until this year. And I’m not just talking about soda at lunch or in the classroom. I’m talking about kids, first grade to 8th grade, bringing in soda at 8am and drinking it with their French toast (I had a hard time giving them the syrup condiment that morning), carrying it with them through the halls, craving more of it as they drool into the faculty lounge where the soda vending machine is, and then carrying it with them through lunch, into snack, and into their supper meals that we also provide.
And it’s not their fault. It’s not anyone’s fault but our own. As most know who read this blog, food access in this country is a sad irony of a failed destructive system we build ourselves; a system that has set us up to become obese. The kid carrying their soda bottle at 8am into the school has no where to buy juice in the morning, little money and education to know why juice would be a good investment as opposed to the 99 cent bottle of orange soda, and no one telling him different at home. Of course he gets soda and brings it to class. It’s not only cheap but will also fill him up really quickly so at least he can pay attention in the history class he has first period.
This past week the kitchen staff started asking “where”. Where are you getting this soda? Before we gave them their breakfast we wanted to know where they were getting the soda so that the cooks knew why they weren’t eating the food…. soda consumption is effecting everyone and I wanted to get my cooks involved in the talk…after all, they are spending their time making the food and if they aren’t eating it, I would want to know who’s wasting my time.
And after each student gave us an answer they got their meal. We found most were actually getting it from home, which is absolutely terrifying. Again the disconnect in food access is always food education and asking why they are stocking their homes with soda is more important than wondering why the kid brought it in now. It’s cheap.
So, the ultimate issues, as stated, is education. How do we work with families to understand the priorities of moving their income to be spent on quality rather than quantity and telling them that truly, in the end, you will save more money and be healthy? Addressing this is huge and with parents. The last thing parents want to hear is someone preaching to them about how wrong they feeding their kids. But we don’t really have a choice….our work in our kitchen at this school becomes about the parents.
On back to school night you can be sure that not only will we be talking about the food we are serving but about the importance of what the food is and why. After all, the beginning of education starts with a conversation …and I’m looking forward to it.