Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hunger or Hyperbole?

I"ve read this story twice now and I'm still scratching my head over it. I mean, can it be true? Or is it 'Indo true' (i.e. not very true, ot true-ish with a dash of bollocks, or true-escue but really with lots of holes).
Observe.

'TENS of thousands of children are going to school every day without breakfast or with only junk food for their lunch.

"We have some children who might be lucky enough to bring a packet of chewing gum with them for lunch" one teacher is quoted as saying in a draft report which has been seen by the Irish Independent.

It quotes research which shows that: *more than half of Irish children consume sweets and 37pc drink fizzy drinks at least once a day; *the rate of overweight and obese children on the island is increasing by 100,000 a year; *fruit and vegetable intakes are only half the recommended amount; *there are inadequate intakes of foliate, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C and B2 is common, especially among girls.

Now a major initiative to tackle 'food poverty' among primary school pupils will be launched shortly by three anti-poverty groups.

The Healthy Food for All Guide has been prepared by Dara Morgan, a consultant dietician and nutritionist for St Vincent de Paul, the Combat Poverty Agency and Crosscare, the social care agency in the Dublin Archdiocese.

It says that schools provide an ideal setting to focus efforts on ensuring that children have access to a healthy diet.

They could develop a range of programmes such as breakfast clubs, school lunches and and snacks, milk schemes, after school clubs and school gardens.

The report describes successful projects around the country but highlights lack of parental support in some areas as a barrier to implementing policy.

One principal said: "We tried to ban crisps a couple of years back, but we experienced extreme resistance from a number of parents, some of whom were very vocal and instead of giving their children one packet of crisp they would give them two, just to spite us."

Some principals said that their schools already had too many policies and programmes in place and that implementing a healthy lunch policy was simply too great a workload for members of staff.

The draft report is currently being considered by interested parties and a decision will be taken in the near future on how a final report outlining best practice can be distributed to schools.

A spokesperson for Combat Poverty said that recent figures showed that 14pc of pupils did not have breakfast during weekdays.

The rate increased with age and a greater propoprtion of girls than boys skipped breakfast during school days.

"Not only does inadequate nutrition lead to health problems, -- for example obesity and heart disease -- it also makes it much more difficult for children to concentrate at school and affects their learning."

The report also adds that studies conducted on undernourished children who take part in school meal programmes have shown improvements in their cognitive ability and are healthier in line with their improved nutrition."

Now let's break it down.
1-14% of kids go to school with no breakfast? How is that possible? How hard is it to have a bowl of Ready Brek or Wheetabix? Or to have banana, or even toast? What sort of parent lets their child out the door in the morning with nothing in their stomachs?
2- I don't know about you, but I can't work properly when hungry, I just can't. How are these kids supposed to function without fuel? Ah right, they're not. This reminds me of a study done a few years back on ADD, which found that kids, mostly boys it had to be said, who were wild and disruptive and 'ADD compliant' were found to have significant changes in their behaviour when their diets were changed to exclude sweets and rubbish and include very basic foods, like fruit and pasta and lots of water. The kids calmed right down, leaving the layperson -me- to wonder aloud if maybe letting kids eat the amount of crap they eat and drink the amount of soft drinks they drink isn't outright cruelty.

3-"We tried to ban crisps a couple of years back, but we experienced extreme resistance from a number of parents, some of whom were very vocal and instead of giving their children one packet of crisp they would give them two, just to spite us."
This is easily solved. If your school puts in place a ban on such items and parents include them, confiscate the offending items and if the parents continue to flout the rules ask them to remove their child from the school. Be vigilant and be tough.
4- I would also ban all soft drinks and gum.
5- If you're going to have a school lunch, I would make sure there were only healthy options available, no chips or white bread. Hungry kids will pretty much eat anything, but given a choice will pick the least healthy option.( salty over-flavoured foods tickle the palates of kids, it takes time for them to get used to plainer food if that is not what they are used to)
6- Demand to speak with parents who send their children to school lunch-less. Don't beat about the bush. Ask questions.
There is no excuse to send a child to school hungry and poverty doesn't cut it either. How hard or costly is it to make a cheese sandwich and pop an apple in their lunch box? What about making up a pasta salad the night before, it's cheap and it's easy.
Anyone that sends their child to school with nothing but a packet of chewing gum deserves a good kick in the arse in my view. But failing that, they need to be told it is not acceptable and the school won't tolerate it. When it comes to children's health what we do now can alter and shape their health and their understanding of their health as they grow and reach adulthood.
There should be no pussy-footing around on this one.

Talk about hobbling a child before the poor kid has even started his path in life.

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24 Comments:

Anonymous Shebah said...

Jamie Oliver has been trying hard in the UK to get schoolkids eating healthy food, but he is being hampered by ignorant parents who opt out of the school meals and give their kids overly processed fatty foods, without any fruit or veg to balance. Schools in the UK have canteens and are now promoting healthy eating - meals are free to less well off chidren - so children can have at least one decent healthy meal per day. Instead of giving their support, some careless parents are making all the usual excuses for their fat, pasty kids; "he doesn't like vegetables" "our family has the fat gene" etc. etc. ad infinitum. So sad. so stupid. Every child has the potential to be a slim, fit, healthy adult if they are taught about good nutrition, exercise, self discipline, and how their body works. No child should ever be sent to school without breakfast. More and more, teachers have to do the parents job too. Obesity has become such a growing (no pun intended!) problem in this country that politicians are now looking at rationing certain NHS treatments for the obese and smokers. Rant over, hopping off the soapbox!

11:02 a.m.  
Blogger Gerry said...

chewing gum for lunch? they should count themselves lucky, some people have it way worse;
http://www.phespirit.info/montypython/four_yorkshiremen.htm

12:16 p.m.  
Blogger Conan Drumm said...

Well it's in the Indo so I'd take it with a pinch of salt (except that would harden my arteries).

But what of this quote - "the rate of overweight and obese children on the island is increasing by 100,000 a year".

That must be near or above the birth rate. It is the equivalent of saying that we will have ONE MILLION overweight and obese children age 10 and under in ten year's time. That is also the equivalent of 20+% of our present total population.

I don't buy it. Fuck off Indo and all your crappy reporting, cynically calculated to appeal to middle-class anxieties and their prejudices about those less well off and educated than themselves.

12:19 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

That's why I coined Indo-truth, you can never take what they say at face value. There always seems to be an agenda.

12:49 p.m.  
Blogger Medbh said...

I never got breakfast as a kid except on saturdays as a treat. Then it was one donut each from the corner bakery. Not that I am bitter.
In the U.S. many schools have contracts with either Coke or Pepsi. The soda companies get a monopoly in the school with their machines all over and they in turn buy computers or equipment for the school. So unethical.

1:36 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Unethical to the core. I firmly believe soft drink machines should not be allowed in schools, all those negative calories* are adding to the increasing girth and jittery nerves.



* shakes head, pokes Puddy. Puddy snores on.

2:20 p.m.  
Blogger grimsaburger said...

The only problem with the vending machines is that they're extremely valuable for fundraising. Last time I asked my dad (retired teacher) about them, he said they bring in around $100,000 per year. When you're talking about public schools that operate on a perpetually-strained budget, you just can't beat vending machines for revenue and simplicity.
The only other way to get that kind of cash coming in is to raise property taxes--you should be able to guess whether that would go over well amongst tax-phobic Americans.

3:28 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

er yes, but isn't allowing kids to access the vending machines thus allowing them to grow larger and into the realm of diabetic and so forth... well doesn't that up medical insurance and what not for the tax paying American in the long run? Isn't it a lose lose situation no matter what?
I don't know of course, I'm just speculating insteading of doing a tap of work.

3:47 p.m.  
Blogger grimsaburger said...

Of course all that's true. But when's the last time our government made long-range plans that didn't involve making more money for rich folks or bombing more brown people?
I saw some figure around 50%-60% of Americans being willing to pay for universal health care, but we have approximately zero members of Congress, and certainly no members of President Asshole's administration, willing to take that 50-60% up on the offer. No one wants to talk about taxes because they're afraid they won't get elected again and again.
I honestly don't know if it's more a failure of leadership, or a general selfishness that's been nurtured by a failure of leadership that keeps us from investing in long-range plans to make people healthier. One of the most powerful and effective lobbies in Washington is the health insurance lobby, and their clients make nothing off of preventive care, and tons off of acute care. Now I wonder why it is we spend so little on prevention--taking vending machines out and subsidizing crops that actually resemble food, rather than food products--and so much on emergency-room care.
The other side of this is that you can't tell "American dream" stories without individuality, rather than collectivity being the motivating force. I do academic work that deals in part with Victorian-era poor laws--ask me if I find any similarities in the political rhetoric on charity and private/public responsibility.

5:02 p.m.  
Blogger Conan Drumm said...

Ah yes, the Poor Laws.

And remember it's Mary Harney Minister for Health (sic) who wants us closer to Boston than Berlin on health and social policy.

5:47 p.m.  
Anonymous Babs said...

I grew up in a house that never had "bold" foods, my parents are both total hippies, we were vegetarian (shock!!) and I cannot even remember us having a pan of white bread never mind sweets, I trained to be a chef in college and worked as one for a long time until I got pissed off never being able to do anything and working Christmas day etc, it kills me to see people giving their kids shit, my friends do it, they give themselves healthy dinners, and they give their kids processed shite because "they don't like vegetables / fruit / anything apart from chicken nuggets and other assorted shite", I in turn give out to them, they probably think I am a moaney bollox, I don't really care. I used to get slaged off in school for having this for my lunch: brown bread sambos with salad and cheese, an apple, an orange, a banana. Apparently not having crisps and other crap is abnormal, it used to get to me, until I hit 15 and all of my friends started to get fat guts and I was normal size 10 and still am, they always had shite skin and greasy looking grey complexions, I don't even wear foundation, I don't have to, I don't feel the need for sweets or crisps, I have never even eaten in McDonalds or Burger King etc, I don't think I am missing out on anything, my friends all used to think I was. Over the past year or so people where I work have started to ask me for recipes because they want to be as "healthy" as I am, I eat bread, I eat cheese, pasta, the occasional portion of chips, you know yourself, the key is everything in moderation, people who give their kids processed foods and no fruit or veg need a kick up the arse big time, or else they will end up with very very sick kids, their immune systems are already suffering, what is next, heart attacks at 20? It disgusts me.

8:24 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

It's laziness Babs, pure and simple. There's enough information out let folk know what is and what is not good for them. We're all allowed our indulgence moment, but by and large it is not hard to eat well and eat healthy and enjoy good food.
Kids are so used to over saturated salted, E numbered foods these days that real food tastes weird to them and they don't like it, and so the dance goes on

9:48 p.m.  
Blogger Metaphysicallyfit said...

It's a big country over, so I can't speak for other regions, but the school I attended from Kindergarten through 12th grade had vending machines with bottled water and Juicy Juice, 100% pure juice (so the label reads). We also had a machine with apples, oranges, and grapefruit. Our school lunches and breakfasts had to adhere to strict government guidelines. No processed cheese, or margarine. It was cheddar and butter. I think that has had a huge impact on how I feed my little horde now. The school my kids go to actually charges parents 20 cents for every food group left out of a packed lunch, which I think is pretty cool. I like that, but I don't pack their lunch. It's actually cheaper to pay for the school prepared meals, and we don't even qualify for reduced-price lunches. I don't really understand all the politics involved, but if they can do it here, what's stopping the other states? Or other countries for that matter? I'm proud to say that all my kids are active and healthy, even though they are a little on the lazy side; but what kid isn't if given the opportunity? heh heh...

1:13 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The no breakfast thing doesn't surprise me. My kids went to a Southside secondary school in a very nice area and from what they said most of their friends didn't eat breakfast. I was on the parents' committee and another parent tried to get the canteen open before school for kids who 'didn't have time' for breakfast. Me and my husband both worked full time and we never had any problems finding time to feed us and the kids in the morning.

10:21 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

"I'm proud to say that all my kids are active and healthy, even though they are a little on the lazy side; but what kid isn't if given the opportunity? heh heh."
Indeed madam, indeed. I as a child liked nothing more than lolligagging about wit my nose in a book.

Annoy-mouse, Quite right and well done. It's ridiculous that parents allow children to leave the house with nothing eaten, how the hell to they expect that child to perform when they are running on empty?

2:33 p.m.  
Anonymous ba said...

It is laziness indeed, I have seen people give tiny toddlers bags of crisps, these kids barely have any teeth for a start, what is wrong with mushing up a banana?

5:59 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Or a Farley's rusk?

6:48 p.m.  
Blogger Reacherd said...

In 1971 only 4% of 6-to-11-year-old kids were obese; by 2004, the figure had leaped to 18.8%. In the same period, the number rose from 6.1% to 17.4% in the 12-to-19-year-old group, and from 5% to 13.9% among kid’s ageing between 2 to 5. Include all overweight kids, and a whopping 32% of all American children now carry more pounds than they should. http://www.phentermine-effects.com

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