Saturday, July 2, 2011

Italy, Part 2

Now I know school lunches can be a political topic and somewhat of a sensitive subject. I have no interest in going there. This is not a political post, but something that is line with what I normally discuss. As previously mentioned I was recently in Italy and had the opportunity to take a wonderful food tour. One tends to learn a lot about a culture when being guided around by someone who has lived in that culture almost their entire life. This being a food tour, my questions revolved around food. I am continually intrigued with the differences of food habits between the US and Europe. I asked a little bit about obesity and childhood obesity and whether it was a problem in Italy. Surprisingly, our guide, Eleonora, said it had been, but they were taking steps to improve that. Lunches at school had fallen into a somewhat unhealthy routine. Kids were eating poorly, and, of course, it was contributing to some weight issues.

What was the solution to curb these habits and find a healthy alternative? It turns out the solution was there the whole time. The kids simply adopted what the adults had been doing for centuries. Following the season and embracing freshness. Eleonora told me what a menu might look like, and it made me wish I was Billy Madison headed back to elementary school. Local ingredients are key, as is variety. The big question is how this is paid for. I imagine the government steps in at some point, but they use the previous year’s income of the parents to determine how much each parent has to pay. Our guide said she has to pay €40/month. That’s not a bad price to pay, less than $3/day. Unfortunately, our current system has opted not to get that creative. We feel it’s better to monitor what’s eaten, but not really do anything about it. Check this story out. In my birthplace of San Antonio, they opt to photograph what is being consumed than actually control what is available. Why not make quality a priority? Is it possible if kids ate better at school, they might demand better food at home?

As a parent, I claim to know what’s best for my kid. Parents should know what’s best. Childhood obesity can be called a pandemic or some other awful pattern, however it is ridiculously easy to combat. Stop being lazy! We can control what our kids consume. Freshness is always a smart option, and it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out what’s healthy. I’m not asking the government to step in and limit available food options. If you’re an adult, and you don’t know the difference between healthy and unhealthy food, you’ll probably die early from crossing a busy highway. I do think, however, it is beneficial to limit what is provided to kids at school. Is it such a terrible thing if we start producing mini food snobs?