Wednesday, August 30, 2006

¿Que estas comiendo, maestra?

I brought some veg. sushi for lunch today. My kids were utterly fascinated. I had to tell them every ingredient, in English and Spanish. They are amazed by my vegetarianism (I'm about 98% vegan). Enrique informed me that hippies are vegetarians and didn't understand why I cracked up and almost fell out of my chair.

The things they eat alarm me, though. Pretty much everyone gets free lunch (I think it's over 90% of the school) or reduced lunch (the other 10%). Breakfast is free for all students in my district. For some of my students, I suspect most of them, those two meals are the cornerstone of their nutrition. The things I see on their lunch trays make me shake my head. Milk is a staple, of course. I don't think that my concern over that is just because of vegan sympathies. When I have girls in 4th grade who have never failed a year, yet have breasts and are menstruating, I really wonder what all these hormones are doing to them. But not only is dairy a problem, it's the sugar. The school offers highly sweetened chocolate and strawberry milk, as well as reconstituted fruit juices (20 grams of sugar in 4 ounces). At breakfast I see Frosted Flakes and sausages floating in grease pools. The fruit, when they get it, consists of apples (hard, small), bananas (questionable ripeness), and small, poor quality oranges. Lunch is completely meat-centered. I see entire tables full of children with not a single vegetable on their trays. Today they had sausages and eggs on biscuits, with an option of a chicken patty that was more breading than meat. They also had red sausages. So it was sausage with a side of... sausage.

In the meanwhile, research is telling us something everyone already fucking knows. When super-refined grains, added refined sugars, and processed, low-quality meats are the foundation for these kids' nutrition, it's no wonder they grow up to have diabetes and heart disease. Look at the instances of those illnesses amongst blacks and latinos. That's what my students have to look forward to.

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