Childhood Matters: Moms Speak Out On Food and Love

childhood-matters.jpgOur ‘sneak preview’ screening of Two Angry Moms was lightly attended in San Mateo tonight, but it was still great to kick around ideas about hands-on solutions to instigate change, especially since so many parents feel like politics overshadows pragmatics in the fight for healthier school lunches.

Tomorrow on Childhood Matters, (98.1 KISS-FM, archived as accessible podcasts) I’m going to try to call-in to Shaping Youth advisor Rona Renner’s radio show to ask Amy Kalafa, producer/filmmaker of “Two Angry Moms” how moms can speak up and speak out without fear of ‘retaliation’ at the district level or perception of being a ‘troublemaker’ at their own child’s school.

This may sound odd, since parents are in fact the ‘customers’ of the school districts, and the elected local boards SHOULD ‘aim to please’ their constituency, but all too often, we hear ‘angry moms’ silenced by concerns like this. (one parent even asked to register for our event Wednesday anonymously!)

Being that it’s Mother’s Day, Rona will be looking at the nourishing comfort of moms and food as expressions of love, and the relationships entwined…My mom still treats me’ with her homemade stroganoff classic when I come to visit, as welcoming as a warm hug that says, “I care.”

One of the lines in the film that jarred me right out of my seat was when kids were asked to list their ‘favorites’ and most of them were from ‘franchise’ creations not ‘family’ recipes, indicative of just how fast food focused this generation of kids has become.

Two of our middle-schoolers watching the film said things like, ‘whoa, look at that cafeteria, I want to move THERE’ (they don’t even HAVE a cafeteria, much less fresh food to put in it) the kids sit outside, or under the eave if its raining!

Fascinating how some communities have elaborate local gardens with seasonal greens, cultivating the whole process of farm to table and shared respect of the earth and its resources, while others are dragging out shrink-wrapped, pre-processed, surplus commodity items that make in-flight fare look gourmet.

(oh wait, that’s right, WHAT in-flight fare? Silly me.)

Pretty wild what passes muster in the name of profit and subsidized ‘free meal’ allocation…seems some of our schools are passing policy for ‘wellness programs’ that are doomed to fail by the sheer PRESENCE of competitive junk vendors and contracts.
And then there’s the whole ‘forbidden fruit’ dilemma if junk is banned from homes altogether.

Personally, I don’t appreciate SCHOOLS being the conduit for undermining parental preferences by ‘rewarding’ students with junk or making it available on campus at all…

That said, banishing junk militantly at home can boomerang and give it more power than it would’ve had otherwise…(as one who has ‘been there done that’ on the mistake front with media/TV; it’s got FAR too much ‘heat’ in my home now, sigh) But SCHOOL, bah. Makes no sense to me.

Did you have junk food available on your campus? What were your favorite childhood foods? Did you have a cafeteria or ‘brown bag it?’

I remember in Hawaii wearing those dorky cafeteria hair nets, hats, and gloves, using ice-cream scoops for portion control as each of us took turns in the cafeteria serving up ‘da kine sticky rice’ to keep labor costs down as part of the public school routine.

They’d send home a month of menus so we’d figure out ‘which days to buy’ with teriyaki chicken or ‘shoyu plate lunch special’ and ALL REAL whole food…Makes me wonder if it’s now centralized slop or junked up mystery meat filled with chemicals and preservatives like the rest of the bulk processed ‘nuggets’ and kid crud.

What are some of your favorite childhood memories with family and food? Who was the chef in the family? Did you ever try to ‘cook Mother’s Day meals’ from a kids’ eye point of view? (Mom, I still owe you apologies for some of my…ahem…‘creations’…)

Does your family have a special ritual or routine related to food? Do you have certain nights where everyone gathers round?

What are your favorite ‘comfort foods’ in your culture, region, or childhood flashbacks? Can’t wait to hear what all these ladies have to say on the air in the morning…After all:

“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” ~Alfred E. Newman

Helpful tips for taking action:

bsf-logo.jpg‘Two Angry Moms’ Susan Rubin’s site, Better School Foods and her blog (like this entry dissecting label lingo, similar to our deconstruction) offers a wealth of tips and resources for what you can do to take action against the lifestyle cancers and health related costs of literally ‘poisoning’ our kids’ little bods.

She pointblank says, “Why not set legislation to protect our kids instead of protecting the profits of the food and beverage industry? Make it really simple:

1.Water – the kind that comes from a tap or drinking fountain. Not “water beverages” with added colors and chemicals.

2.Milk– the kind that comes from healthy cows. Not “milk beverages” with added sugar and chemicals.

Keep all other beverages out of schools.

Eat fruit and drink water instead of drinking juice.

Check out the Better School Food top 10 list for other really great ideas for food standards in schools…And also read this 8 page pdf of success stories like Pawtucket, R.I., proving IT CAN BE DONE!!!

Susan Rubin’s site sums, “If Two Angry Moms is the movie, then Better School Food is the movement. The film may inspire parents to visit their child’s school cafeteria – bring this handy checklist (PDF: 292K) – to see what they’re eating and take a stand on improving the quality of food offered. BSF aims to continue the work touched upon in the film through the information and services it provides to parents. You can start with this action plan (PDF: 312K)…etc.”

Want to take it further, beyond school and into sports?

Shaping Youth Also Recommends:

This petition/campaign for the YMCA Childcare Centers asking to remove ALL TIES to junk food and champion change consistently with a healthy body, healthy mind approach to family fitness.

And if you live in California and care about phasing out trans fat in restaurants and bakeries (shades of New York City!) you can take action here, and write your senator to support AB97.

Related Posts:

Kalyn Denny’s BlogHer Article: Celebrating Mother’s Day with Memories & Food 

Jennifer Satterwhite’s BlogHer tribute to no “one size fits all mom” (or dad!) 



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