School meals are once again the hot topic of discussion, but not because it's National School Breakfast Week. But, rather, because the United States Department of Agriculture has made a frightening decision...it has authorized buying "pink slime" to use as filler ground beef prepared for school lunches! Unbelievable!
What is "pink slime?" Good Morning America interviewed a former USDA scientist turned whistleblower yesterday about this terrifying subject. He describes the substance & process -- beef "trimmings"/fat/waste product - heated slowly, put through centerfuge, sprayed with amonia gas, and packaged AS MEAT! The "meat" (a.k.a. slime) was determined unacceptable for use in fast food restaurants....So...now they want to add it to school lunches?! Why? You guessed it, because it's CHEAP! USDA determined that saving 3 cents per pound of beef is worth jeapardizing your childrens' health.
The cliche is that healthy habbits start at home. But, the reality is that most American children spend their entire Monday to Friday at school--dropped off in the early morning by parents rushing to work, and picked up in the late afternoon after the work day is done. So, from the early morning breakfast program, through lunch, to the "extended day" afterschool program, children are getting the bulk of their meals at school. Thus, it is VERY important that school lunches be as healthy as possible. Yet, once again our society has launched a full scale attack on children's health by allowing unhealthy additives to be acceptable as "food products."
According to the Center for Disease Control, 12.5 million American children are obese. Yet, each time a smart decision/policy is made to correct this disasterous trend (ex: healthier nutritional guidelines) a bad decision is made to set us back. Why aren't we more outraged by this war on food? Perhaps it's because we tend to think of obesity as just fat...not ideal, but mostly superficial. The truth is, it's more than pounds...it's diabetes, hypertension, and malnourishment -- yes, being obese can be equated with being malnourished because the body is not getting the proper nutrition from the foods being ingested. Consuming empty calories is not a healthy way to live, especially for children who are still growing and need the right kinds of foods in order to develop.
For a while, it seemed we were headed in the right direction. Organic living became all-the-rage; chef Jaimie Oliver's Food Revolution swept the nation; first lady Michelle Obama began her campaign for healthy living; USDA established new nutritional guidelines for school lunches. But now we are experiences a HUGE step backwards. This "pink slime" decision is the antithesis of healthy eating. Amonia used to treat the "trimmings" is not a food product. Salmonella has been found on "meat" that wasn't treated with enough amonia. With this appauling standard of what constitutes "meat", we have reason to be very concerned about our children's health.
How Will this Affect My Child?
Since this decision is issued from a federal government agency, for a national school lunch program, this will undoubtedly affect your child if he/she buys school food. The Alachua County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services page states that, "Food and beverages sold or served at all schools meet the nutrition recommendations of the USDA School Meals Guildelines." Not very reassurring when the USDA guidelines turn out to be so lax.
It's a shame, because our community has been striving to create healthier meals for students. The Food and Nutrition Services Department improved school menus, and even created a student focus group to allow students to voice their opinions about the healthy foods they want. The department seems serious about its slogan "Chompin to a Healthy Future." Let's hope our community can fight this next food challenge.
How to make a difference?
Write your local government about this matter:
There's a movement to petition the FDA to label all "pink slime" ground beef.