Saturday, March 04, 2006

Phila Food Police

I have been meaning to blog about this since I read it in the paper over a week ago. The Philadelphia School District is going to allow parents to become the Food Police for school lunches. Parents will be able to make certain foods off limits and then the cashier will be responsible for not selling forbidden foods to kids who still try to buy them (not fair to dump this on the cashiers.) I think this is a horrible idea for many reasons. First of all kids have to learn to make their own decisions about food at some point. The earlier they learn to do it the better. I think it is great (and very necessary) for parents to talk about and MODEL good nutrition and good eating habits but in the end it is up to each individual to select what goes in their mouth. I also think that it is a bad idea for certain foods to be forbidden for kids (unless there is allergy or religion involved.) I have a very personal reason for thinking institutionalized Food Police are a bad idea. My mother was the food police and remains so to this day. She hid food (we all knew where it was but she thought she was being discrete) that was meant for my father's lunch alone. Things like pudding cups, fruit cups, granola bars, stuff like that. She also bought sugarless gum for my sister and me and Juicy Fruit for my brother. Certain cereals (Captain Crunch comes to mind) were for my brother's consumption only. She said things like "If you only ate the food we see you eat you wouldn't have a weight problem." She sent me to school with peanut butter and jelly on Pepperidge Farm Diet White Bread. The kids made fun of me. She sent me a care package at camp full of sugarless dietetic candy. It was humiliating. She also hid food in her dresser so we wouldn't see her eat it. She still does that now and only she and my dad live in the house. I know she does it because when I was home this year for the holidays I found an empty pound box of chocolates in the desk drawer in "my" room. Snacks for us were pretty taboo but my father permitted them (mom wasn't usually in the TV room at night but off doing crosswords in bed). She was death on all pork products because of the fat content (her father died at 66 of a heart attack). Even now she is paranoid about fat and has bizarre eating habits. She also did not encourage us to exercise beyond yelling at me to stop reading and go outside (although most of my memories of that statement are tied up with my grandmother as she was the one who was around after school because my mom was working.) She never once came to my baseball games and I played for 3 seasons at least. She did come to some of my basketball games but never came when I was in the marching band. She came to every (indoor) concert and play. As you can see she talked up a storm but she modeled bad behavior. My siblings and I all have poor relationships with food. My sister and I both became obese in college (and I'm not sure we were actually overweight as kids) and remained so afterwards. I am very proud that my sister has been able to lose over 100 lbs recently. She also walks half marathons, swims, and does yoga. My brother has my mother's relationship with food and takes it to extremes. I am certain that he was bulimic at one time (the toilet in the "kids'" bathroom at my parents' house didn't flush properly and I shared the bathroom with him when we were all home for holidays.) Now he is the food police with his wife (who generally blows him off and eats what she wants). He runs too. I am, once again, trying to lose weight and change my eating habits. I don't blame my mother for my current weight, she didn't force feed me or strap me to a chair to keep me from exercising. However, I think that parents who are the food police (and the Phila School District for enabling it) do the exact opposite of what they are trying to do. Teach your kids to think and to make decisions and the first place to start is with the food they eat when they are out of sight.

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