School lunches have always been, and always will be, a controversial topic. The Reagan administration led to a brief policy that included ketchup as a vegetable, while the Obama administration seemed to be under the impression that school lunches are a leading contributor to childhood obesity.
Low income students are unfortunately caught in the middle of this food fight. Relying on federal aid programs for free and reduced lunch, these students have become political guinea pigs for extremists on both sides of the issue.
These students are more likely to suffer from obesity, and it would be easy to find a correlation with the fact that these students are more likely to eat school lunches. Leading factors of this is a lack of recreational programs and not having access to full service grocery stores. So what Michelle Obama got right was the need for more physical activity.
This is not to discount the importance of making sure students are eating properly. Not eating breakfast, for example, has a detrimental impact on student focus and performance. Conservatives will be quick to put the responsibility on parents, but as a teacher I could care less who should be responsible for feeding them. I just want my students fed.
Unfortunately some corporations are taking advantage of the public controversy. The Conscious Kitchen program (funded by Patagonia, Clif Bar, Whole Foods, Annie’s and Dr. Bronner’s) on its face appears to be an innocent attempt to expose low-income students to healthy food options they may not have access to at home. A look at the lesson plans teachers are assigned to use to go along with the meals reveal a Trojan Horse containing pseudo-science.
The section of the plans titled “Non-GMO” fortunately avoids any claims about GMOs causing cancer, but instead relies on a red herring about seed saving. Students are asked questions about why it is important for farmers to save seed, and what it means when they can’t.
The corporate propaganda leaves out the fact that many farmers stopped saving seeds long before GMOs came out on the market. Even organic seeds are often patented. Some GMOs are coming off of their patents, while others are offered by local governments and farmers are encouraged to save their seeds.
Not surprisingly, the lesson involving organic food also contains falsehoods. Students are asked to act out the different parts of a food chain “and watch as pesticides accumulate for the top predators”. The lesson leaves out the fact that organic farming also uses pesticides, some of which are more toxic than what conventional farmers use.
Attempts to encourage better eating habits for students should certainly be applauded. But low income students being treated to a week of healthy options should not come with corporate strings and propaganda based lesson plans attached to them. Pepsi is on the record stating that consumers will happily consume “high salt, high sugar, high fat” products when sold as organic and non-GMO.
Are students being left with the impression that Clif Bar’s organic peanut butter bars (with more calories per ounce than a Snicker’s bar) is healthy just because they say “organic”?
Take action. Contact Clif Bar and tell them to stop funding anti-science lesson plans.