Eric Schlosser was our keynote speaker at the American Grassfed Association conference in Colorado Springs last month. He was a delight to get to know and held our group of 250 grass fed producers in rapt attention.
It was thrilling to us as producers to hear him speak to the benefits of raising animals on grass the way nature intended rather than opting to enter the world of industrial meat industry with it is behemoth feedlots and mega-processing plants.
I had read Fast Food Nation years ago and found it a good read. Thoroughly researched, it was as provocative in message focusing in light of the modern meat as Upton Sinclair was in writing about the meat industry in the early part of the century. Eric has followed through in writing Chew on This which is the kid’s version of his earlier book. It is required reading at my house.
It will be exciting to see the reactions to the movie version of Fast Food Nation which will be out this fall. If you would like a sneak preview peek here:
Super Healthy, Not Super Size
Fast Food Nation’s Eric Schlosser talks to Epicurious about
getting kids to eat healthy
The movie Fast Food Nation will be released on October 20.
With Americans —and their kids —super sizing themselves, and with one in five public schools in America offering brand-name fast food in the school cafeterias, we are reaching a health crisis. It is particularly alarming in the youngest and most vulnerable segment, our children.
Since the early 1970s the rate of obesity among adult Americans has risen by 50 percent, writes Schlosser. Among preschoolers it has doubled. And among children aged six to 11 it has tripled.
Schlosser was so concerned that he set out to teach kids directly how to make the right food choices. Chew on This, his latest book, is a kid version of his famous exposé, Fast Food Nation.
But parents play the most crucial role. Be active and aware of your children’s eating habits before it’s too late,Schlosser urges. He notes that a child who is obese at age 13 has 90 percent odds of being obese in his mid-30s.
While parents can encourage their children to develop healthy attitudes toward eating by sitting down to family dinner every night and teaching them about food, Schlosser admits that peer pressure and commercial messages are tough to compete with: People are really going to have to work to change what’s going on outside the home, he says. There’s constant bombardment from mass culture. He claims that on average a child watches three hours of junk-food ads on TV every week, and that fast-food chains spend $3 billion a year on television ads. They also sponsor playlands,hand out toys, and offer free materials to schools in an effort to win over the youth market, he says.
Schlosser believes that getting rid of soda and fast food in schools is crucial. Food companies know that parents are obligated to send their children to school, and the schools desperately need the money, he says.They are making children pay for their own education and pay for it with their health. I’d rather see a Gap in every high school than a Taco Bell or McDonald’s.
Children should be informed about what goes into fast food, who makes it, the true costs of the food, and how it is marketed, Schlosser maintains. Then they can decide if they want to buy it. Every dollar that you spend on food is a vote, he writes in Chew on This.
Schlosser is encouraged by projects such as Jamie Oliver’s campaign to improve the quality of school lunches in Britain, and Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard in California. While other famous chefs are opening chain restaurants and putting their names on frozen meals, Alice is trying to protect the environment, support independent farmers, and change the way American children think about food, he writes.
So how can parents step up and take charge of their children’s lunchtime diet?
Packing a healthy lunch for your child is one way to avoid unhealthy cafeteria food, says Schlosser, though he admits that it can be tricky finding a nutritious option that will compete with the lure of the fast food being eaten by other children. There are all kinds of ways to make healthy meals that taste good, but they have to be compelling.
In our household we’ve never been puritanical about food, he adds. We enjoy major lapses, but always with foods made from real ingredients rather than industrial ones, such as brownies made with real butter rather than out of a box.