Monday, February 06, 2006

"Good Lord, What Are You Trying to Do Here?"

This is what nurse and diabetes educator Stephanie Rose is quoted to have said when she learned of her alma mater Idaho Falls High School's latest cafeteria promotion - two corn dogs for a dollar.

Many would probably dismiss Rose as some snooty food Nazi. I salute her as a courageous David flinging stones at the Goliathian commercial and cultural forces that have pushed America to the brink of an obesity-driven health catastrophe.

The so-called "Battle over Junk Food" is apparently heating up throughout America (or at least in Idaho, the supplier of the key ingredient of just about everyone's favorite junk food - French fries).

Rose and her fellow school Wellness Committee member Tracie Miller are campaigning to rid Idaho Falls High of junk food and in the process restore sanity to a small part of a country that is otherwise rife with food dysfunctionality.

There are some gems in this article that shed light on our misplaced priorities. In one instance, the principal of the school, Randy Hurley, says he wants students to eat well but his main concern is to keep the school clean. "If we become more restrictive here, within a half block the kids can go purchase what they're interested in....One of our greatest concerns is they'll bring in big beverage cups. You spill a 44-ounce drink, and you have a half-gallon of liquid to clean up."

Where did they get this character - from the custodial ranks?

Another part of the article points out that the school as well as the Parent Teacher Organization and other school groups depend on sales of junk food such as cookie dough, candy and cheesecakes to raise money. Tracie Miller questions the premise of school snack sales, noting that companies providing the products make a profit. She suggests that asking people to give money directly to the school makes more sense than selling a tub of cookie dough for $12 and splitting the profit with the vendor.

Right on!! I couldn't agree more. I have long been perplexed at what has become a booming industry in America - companies that provide B-grade food products and other junk to schools for fund raising. This seems like a racket to me - just a way for companies to wrap their crappy products in the cloak of some worthy cause. In my town for example, the school band raises money for its annual trip by selling citrus. The first year we moved into town, I gladly bought a case when approached by one of the band members. When it arrived I was astounded to discover 12 scawny oranges not much bigger than walnuts and a dozen undernourished grapefruits barely the size of lacrosse balls. They tasted even worse than they looked. The cost - $24!! This is about two-and-a-half times what you would pay for an equal quantity of top quality citrus in any supermarket.

The cynical side of me suspects this sort of thing is a scam cooked up by some sleazy produce distributor to get rid of fruit he could not otherwise sell. A even more egregious example is - okay dare I have the courage to say it - Girl Scout cookies!! Look I don't have anything against Girl Scouts or cookies, but have you ever looked at the ingredients listed on a typical box of Girl Scout cookies?! They are filled with the cheapest and most unhealthy ingredients imaginable. I'm sorry but I don't see the logic of teaching young girls to sell products that poison people's health in order to raise money. Why can't they sell something made with real wholesome ingredients instead of the rank effluent of America's Agri-Industrial complex?

Props to Stephanie Rose and Tracie Miller!!!!! May there be more people like them willing to stand up and ask the question of schools, governments and corporations, "Good Lord, what are you trying to do here".


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