Junior Omnivores

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Michael Pollan, food activist and author, explains the personal and global health implications of food choices to a younger audience in his new book,The Omnivore's Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat.


Michael Pollan

Comments [19]

Pete, London

When is Michael going to respond fully to the recent UK report which found that organic food was no more healthy than chemicalised food? Wasn't one of the major strands of In Defence Of Food the claim that organic food is simply better for you?

Oct. 23 2009 08:24 AM
AndYadda from NJ

school lunches in our borough are only eaten by the kids whose parents don't make their kids lunch. Usually immigrants and either think that school lunches are inherently good for you because they are American -- or simply couldn't care less.

Keep in mind (or, FYI), for many kids/families the food is free--that's why it's cheap.

Oct. 22 2009 12:27 PM
Maria Eng from suburban NY

Mr Pollan mentioned the de-civilising and unhealthful effects of the daily school lunch. Our children are herded into unattractive, noisy, often quite dirty lunchrooms and are offered sub-par foods pre-packaged for re-heating by institutional catering companies. Cafeteria staff are at best only moderately educated in food handling, and in many instances foods are not adequately heated or chilled to ensure safety or are held too long at room temperature. There is a Dickensian system of allowable food substitutions which results in a lunch which is rarely presented as it is described on the monthly menu handout. In many instances, our children are not allowed to talk or laugh during lunch and are bullied by whistle-blowing lunch aides. In many instances they are given less than 20 minutes in which to eat. Some of our schools do not allow students to leave campus at lunchtime, so they are in effect captive consumers of garbage foods if they are not able or willing to carry in a bagged lunch day after day. Fresher or more heathful foods are often not a part of the daily fixed-price selection, they are off-menu options costing three or four times the cost of a fixed-price meal. Our school districts have hired institutional caterers to fob off sub-par foods as healthy,and they have allowed junk food companies to become school"sponsors", positioning vending machines and advertising materials inside our schools. Our school systems are treating lunch time as a feeding chore crossbred with a marketing opportunity instead of a valuable chance to teach children about community, civility and personal as well as environmental health. They are missing a golden opportunity to teach a new generation of consumers how to shop for and eat safer healthier foods and preserve the sense of culture and community which has for centuries accompanied the preparation and consumption of food.

Oct. 22 2009 11:53 AM
Anne NJ

And to Sue in NY, how about cut up apples and chunks of cheese from a block? These healthy lunches sound solid, but snack cups are pricey, and an obscene amount of packaging. Wrap the apple slices in waxed paper or napkin, secure with a rubber band. Or have some snack-sized, reuseable containers on hand. I second you on the dried fruit: that is nutrient and calorie-dense if it's low on sugar.

The costs of healthy, even organic food comes down if we can portion it out from bulk/raw sources. The next democratic step: get bulk bins back in regular supermarkets, so it's not only Whole Foods shoppers who have the "luxury" of reducing their carbon footprint and perhaps even reusing standard #1 plastic containers for carry-home bulk items.

Dare to dream?

Oct. 22 2009 11:34 AM
jtt from jackson heights

...sounds like there're some nutss in that classroom...

Oct. 22 2009 11:24 AM
Anne NJ

Congratulations, Michael Pollan, for anticipating another book that citizens need in their Change Toolbox.

I love him for detaching food issues from class privilege into the democratic territory it really is. I may be a dork, but he's my hero.

We seem to finally have moved beyond, "Health information changes all the time, so I'm just going to eat this anyway," to some real, consistent sense and a clear ethical, environmental responsibility. To help children connect these dots as well is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

Oct. 22 2009 11:23 AM
hjs from 11211

nut-free classroom? that's crazy

Oct. 22 2009 10:59 AM
hjs from 11211

go directly to the schools, skip the white house

Oct. 22 2009 10:56 AM
Sue from North Salem, NY

I pack lunch and snack for my 2 kids every day and it's challenging to make it both healthy and appealing - plus one kid has a nut-free classroom which knocks the failsafe peanut butter out of the equation. Trader Joes is unbeatable for the homemade lunch. Mini-bagels and cocktail bread have been a revelation - kids LOVE small sandwiches. Turkey and cheese on the little bread is a hit, so is veggie cream cheese on the mini-bagels with tomato or cucumber. We go through bags and bags of pita chips and Trader Joes makes these amazing potato-lentil "curls" that are awesome and protein filled. String cheese, Babybel cheese and snack-packs of cottage cheese get scooped up with Pita chips. I wish there were more organic fruit cups on the market - Dole makes diced peaches, pears, pineapple and mandarin oranges but they are always packed in syrup. Again Trader Joes makes great trail mixes and dried fruits. It can be done but it takes thought and time and planning. Twice a week I give my kids money to buy the school lunch, usually on the pizza day, or the "brunch for lunch" day. I'm doing my best...

Oct. 22 2009 10:51 AM
Lee Mandell from Bushwick

As a part of the urban farming movement here in NYC I am working on bringing farming/gardening to schools. To help students learn how their food can be produced along with providing food for the cafeteria is very exciting. I am starting a pilot program next month to teach 4th graders about growing their own food. I think this is an important part of this.

Lee Mandell
Boswyck Farms

Oct. 22 2009 10:45 AM

How do you avoid the right wing attack machine when it comes to changing kids nutrition or school tradition. I can just see Glen Beck and Fox News airing programs.. "is Obama trying to brainwash your kids via food?"

Oct. 22 2009 10:44 AM
Caitlin from Jersey City

How are you going to get this book to the kids who need to read it the most? I imagine the vast majority of parents who would buy it are already Pollan fans and adherents.

Oct. 22 2009 10:44 AM
James from Brooklyn

Wait. I've read (and loved) The Omnivore's Dilemma. But if I was a kid, the factory farms and cow-slaughtering would give me nightmares (they did as an adult too). Can you soft pedal this stuff in a kids book?

Oct. 22 2009 10:44 AM
hjs from 11211

have you seen those ads? "washington wants to tax my soda. how can I feed my kids if they tax my soda?" what sicko can't feed their kids without soda?

Oct. 22 2009 10:41 AM
Peg Kennedy from Willseyville NY

I googled "Breaking the China Study Syndrome: Why the Rich Should Eat the Poor," and could not find a book - just a lot of links to Vegan (or not) diets. Is this some sort of modern parody in Swift's "Modest Proposal?"

While many "China Study" readers interpret the findings as a Vegan Manifesto - I didn't get that from the book. The main argument was that in modern societies, we eat too many animal products and processed foods and that we should reduce them to 5-10% of our diets. Basically, we don't eat enough unprocessed foods from plant sources. There are healthy and unhealthy Vegans and Omnivores.

Oct. 22 2009 10:19 AM
Suki from Williamsburg

I don't have kids but when I do, as soon as they have teeth they are going to hear this: "If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, you're not hungry."

What a phenomenal lesson.

Oct. 22 2009 10:16 AM
Dr. Free Plug, MD

Which is exactly why I recommend the book, "Breaking the China Study Syndrome: Why the Rich Should Eat the Poor."

Oct. 22 2009 09:59 AM

yes! YES! These lower classes and their fancy hamburgers: eEat grass, you mimicking aspirationalists!

Oct. 22 2009 09:55 AM
Peg Kennedy from Willseyville NY

“The China Study,” by Cornell professor, Colin Campbell, lays out the connection between diet and what he calls the “diseases of affluence” - heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune conditions… These common diseases in the US (which run up our health care costs) are not prevalent in poorer societies, whose diets are mainly from plant sources.

As members of the poorer societies begin to accumulate wealth, they start to copy the diets of the rich – high in animal proteins. And then the “affluent” diseases begin to rear their ugly heads in those societies too.

We have been through a “copy cat” scenario in the past concerning breast-feeding. First the wealthy used wet nurses and bottles. Then the lower classes copied them.

Now it’s the wealthier classes returning to high fruit and vegetable diets and breast-feeding for obvious health benefits, while the poor continue to eat “McBurgers,” bottle feed, and, unfortunately, suffer the health consequences.

Read "The China Study."

Oct. 22 2009 09:40 AM

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