In 2013, I went through and graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as a health coach. That experience has changed me for good. I remember clearly saying that I want our child (she was one year old) to experience the best nutrition possible, especially while she’s in school. I know what she gets at home. I know the meal and food preparation that goes on under our roof but I don’t always know what happens in the school kitchens.
At the time, I was also privileged to happen upon a movie called Lunch Line. It’s a documentary about school nutrition. It was then solidified for me that we can’t afford to start thinking about nutrition when we are ailing or having unexplained health issues. Nutrition starts in the womb. Think about it. As fetuses, we receive our nutrition from our mothers when they carry us. That is why doctors urge mothers to eat certain foods more than others or to avoid certain foods altogether. Doctors tell us how important nutrition is to not only the child but the mother also, especially in recovery from the child birthing process.
So much of what we do and what we go through has hinged on our nutrition. Whether or not we’re able to act or think or speak has been impacted by how we’ve handled our nutrition. That’s what is now known. For decades, we’ve been taught the food pyramid is the way to think about nutrition – that what we need the most of is on the bottom and it gradually gets smaller the higher up it goes. For those same decades, we’ve seen obesity rates rise, heart disease rates triple, cancers advancing stages quicker and a myriad of other health issues rise. What experts are saying is that sugar is chief among the reasons why people are developing such issues and now at an earlier age.
The movie Food Inc. goes into depth about how our food sources help determine our nutrition, even to the point of what we think is nutritious may not have any nutrients at all depending on how it was grown and harvested. It’s honestly one of my favorite movies because it really gets a person to think about their own nutrition and its source. For me, it got me to thinking back to our child and her nutrition as she enters the school system as a kindergartner this fall. Will they be able to uphold the nutritional standard I have set for her in the first almost five years (she’ll be five by fall) of her life? After eating their food, would she still want my standard for nutrition? Will something have to give in order for her to be properly nourished?
Last night, my husband and I further discussed this topic after listening to the news and how New Mexico banned “lunch shaming” students who could not afford to pay for their school lunch. We both were left with the question: at what level do we determine our future isn’t worth feeding? Our schools, the ones charged with educating our children – nurturing and enriching the young minds of today so they can be the best and the brightest adults of tomorrow, are also the ones preventing the same child from eating all while demanding that they give their best. How does that happen? We, as adults, know how we get when we don’t eat for longer than the times our bodies require. We get cranky, irritable, sometimes lethargic, shaky and have many other abnormal behaviors due to our lack of food. Why do we not expect the same in our children? After all, they are the tiny, younger versions of us.
I simply do not understand why doctors would fight so hard while the child is in the womb for us mothers to eat nutritiously just so they can, five years later, be possibly lunch shamed for a problem that needs to be taken up with the parents instead of the child. Often times, money for lunch comes from the parent, not the students. So why shame them for something they are possibly unable to control? That’s like people shaming fellow adults for the type blood we have in our bodies. Isn’t that stupid? To me, it’s utterly ridiculous for such an action to take place regardless because isn’t that contributing to bullying in some way? How are there many anti-bullying laws out there but something that can contribute to a child being bullied is still out there and even encouraged? Children are out here committing suicide over bullying yet this lunch shaming is still being allowed. Children face enough stress daily without having to incur more, especially over a situation that should be remedied with the parent only anyway.
I digress. All I wanted to say was that nutrition is just as important as a child as it is as an adult. We can’t allow for schools to take that away from our children while demanding excellence in school. One, often times, to do beget the other – at least that is what was taught in school about nutrition during the Tennessee standardized assessment testing that was required of every student grades Kindergarten – 8th. They told us religiously to eat a good meal, cited examples like oatmeal, toast and juice, and had even given us the times and menu of the school cafeteria so we’d know what breakfast we were to have on each of the testing days. For the purpose of brevity, they wanted us to eat. They made sure we ate. They insisted that we, the students, eat. My oh my how times have changed!
Until next time, consider your nutrition and how it has changed throughout the years. Think about how it was during your childhood and whether or not it has impacted your life now as an adult. Did your nutrition suffer as a child or was it adequate enough for your liking? Now imagine this: there will be a bunch of children anywhere from five to twenty years from now that will have a negative answer to that question and it would have been for reasons out of their control. School should always be a safe place for learning, growth and nurturing; not a place for condemnation over the inability to pay for food. What are we teaching children then? Is it that money is worth more than life? Is it that money is worth more than health? Perhaps it’s that money is worth more than sustaining our future citizens? You tell me. Leave me a message in the Talk To Me section below. As for me, I’m going to make sure my kid gets a good breakfast this morning. Who knows who she could be if she doesn’t get one. I know her potential for greatness will increase because she was able to eat nutritious food. I’m just sad that our school systems aren’t really thinking about potential for greatness as much as they once did.