Thursday, 13 June 2013

Malnutrition, Class, Wards of the State and Obesity

Photo via the Huffinton Post
 The Colbert Report covered the story a while ago of farmers feeding their cattle candy because junk food made from corn is cheaper than actual corn (click to watch the video). I did some reading about the high fructose corn syrup subsidies and it is jaw-dropping stuff (note my avoidance of the obvious puns). It isn't just America where subsidies make junk, highly processed foods cheaper. Nutrition has been a class issue in Australia for a long time (along with dental health). It's particularly pronounced in remote communities, and especially in remote Aboriginal communities. I read recently about $10 lettuces in the Northern Territory. Americans seem to be talking about and tackling the issue a lot more effectively than Australians, however. I saw this video recently and I think it's worth sharing:

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The final frame comparing the calories and prices is chilling. I'd love to see it go further and include a nutritional breakdown to show how little nourishment the meal on the right actually provides, because childhood obesity is increasingly being linked with malnutrition. Inside the layers of fat, the body is being starved of essential vitamins, minerals and so on.

I've praised the was Japan's school lunch program teaches nutritional information in an accessible way, but I am writing today in light of a less positive revelation. During a meeting with the social worker who is facilitating our adoption, she mentioned the importance of taking our son to the supermarket and involving him in cooking. The reason she mentioned it was that some children raised in orphanages eat every meal in a dinning hall. They have never seen fresh produce being turned into meals and have no mental association between the ingredients and the food. While all children do some cookery classes at school, it isn't a lot to be a child's sole source of food-related life skills. Think about what you learned to make in elementary/junior high. Can you imagine being thrust into independent life as a teenager with those skills and those alone? My guess is that these kids end up living on cup noodle and convenience store friend chicken. I had always imagined introducing my children to growing and harvesting food in a "tomatoes don't come from a store" kind of way. I never thought that the store itself might be the big revelation. The issue of where meat comes from is a whole other kettle of fish (literally and figuratively).

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