School food and parental responsibility
This is part three in a week-long conversation with Jeannie Marshall, author of the brilliant Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products.
For those of you who missed the last two parts in this conversation, the book is part manifesto, part family story. It’s about the disappearance of “real food,” as the title suggests, but more than anything, it’s about the value of “food culture” in ensuring a healthy and sustainable food system for kids and adults alike. Jeannie’s easy-to-read style and chilling, clear-eyed marshalling of the facts makes it a standout among food books.
Today, the appeal of forbidden food and the dangers of allowing industrial food to call the shots.
Q: When anyone starts suggesting regulating soda pop consumption or, in Canada, introducing universal school lunches, there’s always a lot of talk about the nanny state and how parents are absconding from their responsibility. How do you respond to this?
Jeannie Marshall: I would say we should be asking just who is our nanny? Is it the government with regulations or is it industry? Right now we are being told what to eat, reminded to eat it constantly and even given very little real choice about what to eat – but it’s the food industry that does this, not the government. Nestlé goes into schools with nutrition information to teach children how to eat. Now there’s a nanny I really don’t want for my kid.
It would be great if we could have government regulations that supported a genuine food culture, one that nourishes human beings rather than fattens up the food industry. I realize I’m wishing for a radical change in perception, but I think it would be great if communities could collectively decide what they want to eat and if the government could help them to find it. Maybe this would involve supporting small farmers to grow a wide variety of foods with as few chemicals as possible rather than encouraging them to grow single crops for commodity purchasers. It would also be great if labels that tell you something about the way the food is grown (i.e. organic, free-range, etc) could be standard and meaningful. This would mean saying “no” GMO crops cannot be labelled as organic. Continue reading