Friday, September 17, 2010

Food Revolution Fridays: I'm a Better Mom Than You

Breastfeeding vs bottle. (We bottle fed)

Crying it out vs gentle methods. (Crying it out, here)

Home schooling vs public schooling. (Public schooling, although I wished we home schooled)

Natural childbirth vs Non-natural (that was me. Give me DRUGS!)

The list goes on and on. Parents are pitted against each other, judge each other, tout their way as THE way, and Lord help you if you don't do the 'right' thing because your parenting skills will be called into question immediately .

Now, the latest topic to berate people on? Processed food vs home made.

As I read, and listen more and more to other people about the growing movement to feed our children healthier, to change school food, I'm becoming dismayed by some of the responses I'm seeing. I've seen pictures posted of other people's grocery carts, with statements that these people are poisoning their children. People have even gone so far as to cite child abuse, to the point where I've heard of cases where it has actually been reported to authorities.

Really? Child abuse? For feeding your kid a stinking lunchable, or packing sandwiches on white bread, instead of whole wheat?

Let's get one thing straight.

THIS is child abuse.

One cannot make a snap judgment based solely on a child's lunchbox, or someone's cart in the grocery store. Perhaps they are throwing a party that day. Maybe they are stocking up. Perhaps the family is struggling financially, and all they can afford are the $.25 instant noodle cups.

Perhaps the child is autistic, has serious food issues and it's all they will eat, so the family allows it just to get the child through the school day, and healthier food is eaten at home.

Maybe, they don't know how to cook. Oh it's easy, you might say, anyone can learn. Yes, but if a family is struggling to survive, and if the adults struggle with reading, then what?

Berating, judging, shaming, and accusing people only hurts the cause. Even as much as I love Food Revolution, when Jamie Oliver picked up a child's lunch of chips and jellybeans and said "Child abuse!" I cringed. How does he know the kid didn't eat some healthy food at recess? Or already finish some of it before he got to her table? Yes, chips and jellybeans are far from a healthy lunch, but from the 18 years I've supervised school lunches, I've learned to NEVER assume anything. Parents can pack a healthy lunch and kids will trade it, throw it away, eat the whole thing before lunch, buy treats from a corner store on the way to school or at school, share with friends, sneak foods, and more. Those little people get pretty darn creative.

Also, here's the thing; in BC, parents have the right to pack whatever they like into their child's lunchbox. What goes in there is NONE of the school's business. So it goes both ways; I then have the right to pack my kid a Snickers bar on a school ski trip (which would be appropriate), AND another parent could pack their kid a box of cookies every day if they wished (not so appropriate). What parents feed their children is a highly sensitive, personal issue, and the times where a teacher has criticized Jake's lunches have left me HIGHLY insulted.

I've been criticized for years for sending Jake with juice for lunch, instead of milk, even though he's lactose intolerant. Send soy, they say. We HATE soy. Send water, they say. He has water lots at home, and 1 teeny juice box is for a bit of variety. For awhile they criticized home made brownies, but the other kids were allowed packaged treats. It's full of sugar, they'd say. Sugar makes kids hyper. My response?

"Get out of my kid's lunch box unless YOU plan to take him home and parent him."

When I began this journey, I realized exactly where I want to go with Food Revolution. It's about community, sharing, supporting, and education. I believe that people reach for processed foods because they are quick, inexpensive, and taste good so of COURSE people eat them. We're conditioned to eat those foods-have you seen the advertising budgets for those companies? Do people even have time to bother reading labels?

I want to show people that fresh can be fairly quick, not much more expensive, and taste amazing. Enjoy what you eat, apologetically! If you have a slice of home made cheesecake, savor it! Enjoy real food. Why put up with only food-like substances?

I am NOT a better parent because I cook from scratch. You are NOT a better parent because you feed your kids all fresh, organic, local, straight from the garden and they've never touched white flour or sugar.

Someone else is not a bad parent because they buy noodle cups, Oreos, or the occasional lunchable. It's about support, education, and allowing people to make choices that work for them because in the end, if someone has all the education and skills, and still chooses processed?

At least they know what they're getting into.

Where do you stand on the issue? Have your lunchbox choices been criticized? Let me know in the comments.

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