Guest blogger: Should the government be involved in our kids’ nutrition at all?

I asked my friend Beth Gates Bumgarner to be a guest blogger for us. We worked on the high school newspaper staff together. She is now raising four kids in Gwinnett County. Her kids are 2, 5, 8 and 10. She always has great links to news articles on her Facebook page or funny anecdotes about her kids.

We talked on the blog yesterday about the government using psychology to make our children choose healthier foods at school but Beth wonders if the government should be involved at all. Here’s her guest blog:

Beth and her son Lucas!

Beth and her son Lucas!

By Beth Gates Bumgarner

In a conversation with a friend I was lamenting the fact that I watched a boy in my son’s class open a lunchbox which contained half a sandwich, an entire sleeve of Oreos, and a large bottle of Gatorade. When the cookies and Gatorade were finished, I asked him if he was going to eat his sandwich. He answered, no, he wasn’t hungry. Well, who would be after eating that?

Upon hearing this story, my friend shook his head and sighed, “Well, that’s just another example of how our school systems are failing our children. The schools should’ve taught him and his parents how to make better food choices.” I was floored by his response. How was this a failing of the school system? It sure looked like a failing of parents to me!

Our First Lady, Michelle Obama, is tackling the issue of childhood obesity through her “Let’s Move” initiative. Her website states that 1 out of every 3 children in the United States is considered overweight or obese, a number that has tripled in the past 30 years. In the meantime, Congress is currently adjourned, but when they return they will be voting on a childhood nutrition bill, which will regulate and expand government food programs in our school systems. It aims to implement new, mandatory standards for school nutrition, as well as expand school meal programs to provide funds for supper.

Of course our nation needs healthy citizens! But, as with any well-intentioned government program, this one has ballooned in size and scope. Until my children entered school themselves, I wasn’t even aware that schools served breakfast, but apparently this has been going on for a long time. There are also summer meal programs and after school snack programs in some communities, all funded by tax dollars. Marketing materials are even available to help expand the programs!

Another  provision in this legislation allows for tax breaks and subsidies to open grocery stores in poor areas. Kind of a “if you build it they will come” mentality. But, will they?

Should the government be involved in building grocery stores where grocery stores are unable to turn a profit in order to encourage people to buy something other than fast food? If children are not learning proper diet and nutrition at home, is it the government’s responsibility to take over their diet for three meals a day? Is it the taxpayers’ job to fund meals for these children? Do these programs create lasting change or do they create a cycle of dependence on government?

88 comments Add your comment

OTOH

October 14th, 2010
1:05 am

Short answer: No. No. No. Maybe, but not the change they are hoping for. Less likely as the program’s efforts are aimed at those already dependent on the gov’t. The programs will certainly last forever no matter how useless they are.
Politics will continue to overrule science on diet and some kids will still toss the healthy food at school and eat junk after school.

suburbanite

October 14th, 2010
1:20 am

as a born and bred upper white middle class suburbanite currently raising my children in gwinnett, i firmly believe that these people shouldve had the foresight to make the decision to have educated, successful parents just like i did. pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps people!

OTOH

October 14th, 2010
2:05 am

upper white?

smh

October 14th, 2010
6:04 am

No it is not the government’s job. As a parent it is my job to feed my children. It should be the same for everyone. The reduced/free meal program should be eliminated altogether along with the summer meal programs. A close friend of mine applied and was approved with NO INCOME VERIFICATION when her husband recently lost his job. I see the gross amount of food that is wasted in our schools. Breakfasts are primarily tossed in the trash because either the kids don’t like it (all processed and packaged) or there is no time before the bell rings. At lunch, the overweight kids are cleaning their plates of breaded, fried, high calorie junk and the good stuff i.e. oranges, yogurt, sits on the trays. I am old enough to remember when the hot lunch program started. Before that, students brought their own lunch. What a concept!

Jeff

October 14th, 2010
6:29 am

If the govenrment thinks so much of itself and so little of me that it wants to tell me how to feed my daughter at school, then it’s no stretch to tell me how to feed myself in my own home. GET OUT OF MY BUSINESS!

You have one...

October 14th, 2010
6:42 am

…dumbazz friend there Beth…

mom of 3

October 14th, 2010
6:45 am

It’s NOT the governments job to meddle in our lives in any form. Why do so many want someone else to be accountable for your decisions? I mean not putting toys in happy meals so the kids won’t get them—really. Last time and it has been while when I was in a McDonald’s the adults were paying for the food. YOU are the parent and I just wonder what happened to MY HOUSE MY RULES. The problem isn’t the children it’s underactive adults wanting to be friends instead of parents. Man up and be responsible. GEEZ so tired of so many immature parents.

mom of 3

October 14th, 2010
6:47 am

PROMISE TO MY CHILD: I will stalk you, freak out on you, lecture you, drive you crazy, be your worst nightmare, embarrass you in front of your friends, hunt you down like a bloodhound…because I LOVE YOU! When you understand that, I will know you are a responsible adult. You will never find someone who loves you, cares about you, and worries about you more than your mom!

motherjanegoose

October 14th, 2010
6:53 am

Will we ever get the message across: As parents we are responsible for our own children?
I doubt it. This whole thing is a big mess. As I have said before, there are teachers who purchase toothbrushes for their class and line them up to show them how to brush their teeth. HELLO?

Some schools do not send their kids outside, if it below 40 degrees, as the parents did not dress the kids warmly enough. WHAT? So everyone else gets to stay in and breathe the germs with no fresh air?

Years ago, I heard that teachers have a constipated curriculum. More and more stuff is being dumped on them and nothing is being eliminated. ’tis true! Parents need to step up to the plate.

Don’t even get me started on those who eat free lunch and their parents spend their money on things that were never in my budget.

One question suburbanite…

people shouldve had the foresight to make the decision to have educated, successful parents just like i did.

I always heard that you can pick your friends but you are stuck with your relatives….can you actually make a decision who your parents are? Guess I really missed the point here.

SJ

October 14th, 2010
7:12 am

MJG – Suburbanite was being sarcastic. The point is that not all children are fortunate enough to have successful, educated parents who care about what they eat.

I agree that parents are responsible for providing for their children, including healthy foods. However, should children whose parents abdicate that responsibility just be tossed aside? I have been hungry at school, and it is impossible to concentrate or learn when your stomach is empty.

It is to our benefit as a nation to turn out educated citizens. The school cafeterias are improving what they provide. Ours has a farm-to-school program and offers many healthy choices. Will some children pick the unhealthiest options? Sure. But for some students, the school breakfasts and lunches are a lifeline. I’m willing to deal with some abuse, or address the abuse by tightening the standards, as opposed to cutting the programs completely.

motherjanegoose

October 14th, 2010
7:18 am

O.K…thanks…I have not had my coffee and sometimes sarcasm, to me, needs to have facial expression and that is not possible here.

motherjanegoose

October 14th, 2010
7:21 am

Did anyone else read this post, from someone who works in an elementary school…called Lunch???

It was posted last night:

motherjanegoose- You are so right! Our school is between 70-80% free and reduced lunch. I see it everyday- .Cadillacs, nails and hair done, dressed in all of the best name brand clothing. But yet can’t, or I should say, won’t pay for their childrens lunches. I just don’t get how they can get over like that.

Seems to me like this is a problem that needs to be fixed.

HB

October 14th, 2010
7:26 am

I’m glad to know about the tax breaks to build grocery stores in poor neighborhoods. I’ve seen so many areas where residents don’t have cars and the nearest grocery store is miles away. It’s hard to eat healthy when your best shopping option is 7-11! This is a great way to encourage bringing decent food AND jobs to poor neighborhoods.

Betty

October 14th, 2010
8:28 am

I agree with HB about the grocery stores in poor neighborhoods. It’s easy to criticize everyone in general for not teaching their kids proper nutrition, not sending suitable foods to school, not setting a great example, etc etc, but there are many who just don’t have access to affordable, fresh, healthy food. This sounds like a great idea and one that has been needed for quite awhile. I’m all for it.

As for the school lunches–of course there will be abuse, and yes, steps should be taken to crack-down on it, but it’s still a lifeline for many children who would otherwise go hungry, not have a productive day at school, and not reach their full potential, through no fault of their own.

Fix the program, don’t eliminate it. And for everyone who takes pride in the fact that they don’t need the program, and whose kids are eating well, and thriving–count your blessings while you’re patting yourself on the back. You truly are blessed–especiatlly in these economic times.

Sick&Tired

October 14th, 2010
8:31 am

There isn’t anything wrong with encouraging people “even by proxy” to choose the right foods. We spend billions in health insurance, care and services; when it would me more beneficial in other places.

We should all be encouraging each other to do the right things regardless if it’s our health or “thou shalt not steal, kill, etc…”.

The government dictates that we can’t kill each other with a gun or poison; why shouldn’t it be able to say we should eat healthy before we kill ourselves.

RJ

October 14th, 2010
8:52 am

I’m glad that so many on this blog are able to educate their kids, however the reality is that everyone doesn’t. I read the response by @Lunch??? last night and just shook my head. Parents walk to my school looking like they just crawled out of bed. Not many Caddy’s pulling up in front of the school. You won’t find “authentic” Coach bags, if any at all. They are barely hanging on. Many work at local fast food restaurants because they lack education. Plus, eating healthy is expensive. How can you afford it earning minimum wage? We feed every kid breakfast in my school. OUR tax dollars support many programs outside of school food programs. Why is this such an issue. Many complain about what they don’t want to happen, but do very little to help bring about change. Some people live in a bubble.

I have no problem with my tax dollars being used to teach children how to eat healthy. I have no problem in providing lunches for kids that NEED it. Unfortunately there will many that receive free or reduced lunch that don’t, but until the system follows up on income requirements there will be no change.

I find it interesting that the author of this article had never heard of breakfast being served at school. I went to school in Buckhead and lunch was served in our school many years ago. It’s nothing new.

TechMom

October 14th, 2010
9:07 am

As I stated yesterday, I don’t think it’s the government’s right to meddle in personal business but we crossed that bridge a long time ago. If the government is going to be involved, then the gov’t needs to enforce standards and requirements for what is being paid for by our tax dollars. If the government controls the purse-strings of our nation’s lunchrooms then it has the ability to control what is being served. There are plenty of healthy options out there and eventually kids will stop throwing the healthy food away if that is their only option. I also think schools could go back to simpler meals and still be nutritious. No one said they have to serve brussel sprouts but sandwhiches with whole-wheat bread (I’ll bet some kids have never had whole wheat bread!), salads, fruit & soups, are all easy options. I just think if that’s all the schools are serving, kids will come around. Just b/c you’ve got a bunch of lazy parents who think a dinner of Dorritos and a Coke are a sufficient meal, doesn’t mean the schools have to follow suit and yet it seems as though that’s exactly what has happened.

No I don’t think the government should be building the grocery stores. Can cities or towns offer tax breaks to corporations who are willing to build a store in a low-income neighborhood? Why not, they offer tax breaks to everyone else. But I still think it’s a farce that this is the reason why so many people don’t eat well. The grocery stores were driven out of the neighborhoods b/c people weren’t shopping there to begin with. You think just b/c they’re there now things are going to be different? Not unless you stop allowing food at convenience stores to be paid for with an EBT card (i.e. food stamps).

Cayce

October 14th, 2010
9:22 am

I’m sorry, I really have to think twice about a blogger who uses this forum to push forward her political agenda. Really?? You’re a mother who cares about her kids and has the money and will to feed them properly. That’s great. But you deny food to little kids because it doesn’t square with your political beliefs? Shame on you. Let me guess. You also go to church every Sunday. Do you read about Jesus denying help to those in need? Not if you’re reading the bible. Something you guys rarely stop to think about is how little your doctrine meshes with your religion. Bring back What Would Jesus Do and see how often it correlates to your own selfish political views.

So, if government has no place in our lives, then let’s take it the next logical step. A right to education is not in the constitution. I spend a lot of money on property taxes educating your children. Should I really have to do that? I don’t have kids. Why should my tax dollars be spent doing something you could readily do yourself? And those roads you drive on? Why should I spend money on roads I’m never going to drive on? And how about police for your neighborhood? Why can’t I just pay for the police who secure my area? Why should I care about yours? Libraries you take your children to? Buy your own books. Why should I pay for the books your kids read? Is that really the role of the government?

Take some serious time to think about your belief system while being thankful for your middle class lifestyle. You can tell yourself that all of those government programs that help the poor are being abused, but why don’t you go to the cafeteria at mealtime instead and ask a few poor kids how many real meals they get in a day. And while you’re at it, just reach over and take that plate out from in front of them. Because, really, why should you have to feed them?

cgw

October 14th, 2010
9:26 am

I realize that a lot of parents are not smart enough to chose proper food for their children, I see this every time I walk into a convience store and see a kid with a hand full of junk; but the government should stay the hell out of what people should eat. Its just another way for the government to try and control our everyday lives. It has to stop.

Come on Son

October 14th, 2010
9:28 am

Government has a role in our society, no not in every facet, but it has a role. The whole anti-government rhetoric has grown tiresome, and this is from just a vocal minority. Every aspect of the necessary services and management can not be given to a private firm (who would get the contract awarded to them by guess who, the government).

With that said, there is a childhood obesity problem in this country and something has to be done. This fast food generation of kids have not been taught how to eat properly because of the microwave dinners, carry out, and etc. Poor eating children become poor eating adults, who become heavily realiant on health care, thus driving everyone’s health and life insurance up.

There is never just one correct one size fits all answer but I wish some people will stop yelling and become involved by working with the government to make positive changes instead of the same old battle cry, “government, stay out of our lives”.

HB

October 14th, 2010
9:29 am

TechMom, the areas I know of without grocery stores haven’t had them in at least 30 years, if ever. They were not recently “driven out” by convenience stores that pulled away EBT customers. Residents want grocery stores and will shop there, but their neighborhoods are not a priority for corporations because while stores there will likely turn a profit, it will be a lower profit than in areas where residents can afford to buy steak instead of ground beef. Tax incentives encourage those companies to go ahead and build in lower income areas.

Rational Citizen

October 14th, 2010
9:30 am

Yes the government should be making decisions on what your child eats. Too many Americans have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of providing nutritious meals to not only their children, but themselves. Almost 1/3 of all adults in this country are obese, and a majority are overweight. Our children get fatter every year because of the crap their parents allow them to eat, and because they sit in front of the computer or TV all day instead of going outside and getting exercise through playing games.

And don’t give me that crap about this being a personal decision, because in the end we all pay for you and your fat kids’ decisions. My health insurance is higher because the eventual costs of your diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions must be spread over the entire population.

Put down the oreos and go for a walk. And take your tubby little munchkins with you.

AATL

October 14th, 2010
9:32 am

I am sort of stunned that this is even a topic for debate. While certainly there are numerous areas where our tax dollars are mishandled, is the idea of feeding hungry children a truly valid target? While you or I might not know any children who go without, please allow me to share some facts with you on hunger in this country, courtesy of the Feeding America website:

Hunger Statistics on Food Insecurity and Very Low Food Security

In 2008, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 32.4 million adults and 16.7 million children.
In 2008, 14.6% percent of households (17.1 million households) were food insecure, an increase from 11.1 percent (13.0 million households) in 2007.
In 2008, 5.7 percent of households (6.7 million households) experienced very low food security, an increase from 4.1 percent in 2007.
In 2008, households with children reported food insecurity at almost double the rate for those without children, 21.0 percent compared to 11.3 percent.
In 2008, households that were more likely to experience food insecurity were households with children (21.0 percent), households with children headed by single women (37.2 percent) or single men (27.6 percent), households with incomes below the poverty line (42.2 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (25.7 percent) and Hispanic households (26.9 percent).

Also, Georgia is the 4th highest “food insecure” state in the nation.

There is no doubt that, as in everything else, parents should be responsible for every aspect of raising their children, but that’s just not the reality in some cases, and I’d rather cope with potentially wasting any amount of my tax dollars to help feed a hungry child.

As for these intiatives targeted at improving nutrition — yes, anyone and everyone (parents, teachers, doctors, the media, and even the government) should have a stake in promoting healthy eating to our children. It just makes sense, and it’s not only poor parents who seem to lack the basic understanding of how drastically our foods and eating habits have changed over the past few decades. We should all be pushing for these kinds of improvements. As someone who has always packed school lunches because of the horrible, over processed options on the lunch line, I would gladly pay double for a healthy school lunch and buy someone else’s to boot. We don’t disagree with the government’s attempts to discourage our children from underage drinking, using drugs, and reporting bullying and abuse — surely encouraging healthy eating shouldn’t be that much of a debate.

Lastly, there are many articles to be found with a quick Google search about grocery stores in urban neighborhoods that would have helped alleviate you of your ignorance on this issue. Theresa, as a trained journalist, I trust you to always do your homework and provide facts with your blog. I hope the next time you consider lending out your blog, you remember that it is a newspaper’s blog and should reflect that. As far as your friend goes, I would suggest that maybe she and her two older children spend a day volunteering at a food bank in the hopes that actually witnessing hungry children would be an important lesson for them all.

@TechMom & Others

October 14th, 2010
9:39 am

Please clear something up for me! What kind of school do you go to that serves Dorritos & Coke for lunch? I confess that I am probably one of the those parents that you would think is just horrible. While I have tried everything from making our own pizzas at home with whole-wheat dough and putting veggies on to try to make it fun because pizza is one of the only foods my kid will eat (which cost me a fortune by the way, and she wouldn’t eat any of it) to refusing to give her any snacks, dessert etc if she won’t eat what I fix for dinner (cooked vegetables, baked chicken) to trying to sneak pureed (sp?) veggies into recipes, my kid is the one who will happily go without anything at all rather than eat something she doesn’t like. I’m way beyond getting up an hour earlier in the morning to make her sit at the breakfast table refusing to eat her eggs and toast.

While I wish she ate better, I’ve given in to frozen chicken nuggets, pizza, frozen waffles and a good multi-vitamin. She’s thin enough as it is and would be dangerously thin if she didn’t eat at all. I would never consider giving her dorritos and a coke for lunch, dinner or breakfast and yet many of you seem to think the foods I’m serving her are just as bad.

For some of us, a “healthy meal” constitutes consuming things that aren’t always fresh from the farm or garden but don’t fall into the category of chips out a bag and a soft drink. I would have some serious complaining to do if I saw soft drinks being served at my elementary school. But they’re not, so I guess I go to a different school than some of you.

Teacher

October 14th, 2010
9:54 am

Everyone should know by now that everything is always the fault of the teacher and the school. Parents no longer have any responsibility at all with respect to raising their own kids.

“Back in the day” parents would at least teach their child proper manners, to respect adults, how to answer a phone, etc. And, even further back, parents would teach their children the alphabet, how to read, how to add and subtract, etc. And, even further back, parents would actually read to their child – imagine that!

But, today the majority of parents think that if they clothe, feed, and provide a shelter, that is all a ‘good’ parent should do.

Everything else is up to the school.

theresa

October 14th, 2010
9:57 am

@techmore and others – the child brought the food in from home.

Teacher

October 14th, 2010
9:57 am

In my opinion, school lunches should never come with a choice of foods. The school should provide a well rounded and nutritional meal – take it or leave it.

The problem starts when we treat children like adults and expect them to make wise choices when they are not capable. Ask them to chose between oreo cookies and brocolli, guess which they will pick?

The Progressive

October 14th, 2010
10:17 am

The government should decide what’s best for all. All hail the government. Taxes should be raised to confiscatory levels and our children should be indoctrinated to levels not seen since the Nazi youth.

After all, there would be no roads or bridges without the government. Just a big vacuum of non-progress and segregation. Like the dark ages.

All hail the government.

K

October 14th, 2010
10:22 am

Yeah, make those poor kids beg on the street for breakfast, like the good ol’ days! I just don’t sleep right at night knowing my tax dollars go to provide food for poor kids in broken homes without capable parents! And how dare the gov’t use my money to help them eat more nutritious kids! What the hell do I care if they eat nothing but generic brand Dorito’s knockoffs?! It’s not like I’ll be footing the bill when they show up at the emergency room with diabetes at age 15….

But seriously, this blogger has a problem with tax payer supported lunches and breakfasts at schools? This is even an issue anymore? Are the teabaggers making this an issue or something? Has this blogger ever left her lily white gated suburban subdivision and seen what kind of parents some low income children have? Not to mention she says “these children” like they’re lepers or something. The more I think about this column the more I’m disgusted these kind of thoughts are pervasive in this country. In one of the richest countries in the world wealthy white people complain about feeding poor children breakfast and lunch at school?! I bet Jesus wouldn’t have a problem with the government helping to feed them…

bunch of yentas

October 14th, 2010
10:25 am

The government should not force parents to pack healthy lunches for their children.

However, the schools should not be serving any unhealthy food.

And it is a matter of education. I bet that half of the mothers on this forum who would point a finger at some kid eating oreos for lunch, but will not think twice about serving their child mechanically seperated chicken.

I would rather my child eat oreos for lunch everyday for a week than eat McNuggets.

http://www.amazon.com/Early-Onset-Night-Michael-Kindt/dp/1453867643/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1286714225&sr=1-4

bunch of yentas

October 14th, 2010
10:28 am

TechMom

October 14th, 2010
10:35 am

Actually I didn’t say the schools were serving Doritos & Cokes (though that may be an option in some vending machines), I was making the point that if kids are having junk meals at home, that may be the only things they [think they] like and therefore that’s all they will eat at school. But if you don’t offer junk at school and healthy foods are the only choice, the kids will eventually eat the healthy stuff. Last I checked most elementary schools don’t have vending machines but since the school lunch program does cover middle & high schools, the vending machine comment is still relevant. I do believe Coke & Pepsi agreed in the last few years to not sell sodas in many school vending machines. But sports drinks are just as high in sugar so even if a kid is drinking a Poweraid and eating a bag of Cheetos, that’s not exactly a balanced meal IMO.

And I’m not trying to say all we eat are healthy foods but the government is funding the lunches and has the ability to enforce healthier options (tho I’m not really sure how considering there are guidelines in place and yet school lunches still aren’t the best). My son loves Toaster Strudels for breakfast. We have a pantry full of cereal but 4 out of 5 mornings, he’d rather put a Toaster Strudel in the toaster and pour a class of juice. I usually force him to eat a yogurt too so he has some dairy (he’s not a big milk drinker). We don’t do big breakfasts in our house during the week b/c quite frankly I don’t really like to cook and I’m not a morning person so unless you want to start your day off really bad, don’t ask me to cook when I first wake up. And we do end up with quick meals during the week because of our schedules but I do try to have vegetables at every meal and and we usually eat salads at least twice a week. We don’t have perfect eating habits by any means nor was I implying that we do.

This issue is that school meals are prepared by people whose only job is to prepare school meals and yet they’re doing a lousy job at it. I know some parents resort to the not-so-healthy stuff because of time or money or whatever but why are the schools following suit??

JATL

October 14th, 2010
10:42 am

Just as I said yesterday, the idea of school breakfasts and lunches isn’t new. We have and have had those programs for YEARS! They’ve been subsidized for DECADES! However, they should feature only healthy food choices. Hungry kids will eat. Most kids actually like turkey or ham with some low-fat cheese or ranch dressing or low-fat flavored cream cheese, lettuce and carrot shreds rolled up in a whole-wheat tortilla. THAT is the kind of thing we need to be serving at school. Believe me, if they have no other choices -they’ll eat what is offered. Whole wheat, low-fat cheese pizzas, fresh fruit, yogurt, baked chicken strips, salad bars, fresh deli sandwich bars (the high school where I used to teach had one that was extremely popular) -it’s not that hard to do.

To answer your question -you have to be realistic. In a perfect world -hell NO -it’s not the government’s responsibility to make sure people eat healthy, but in case you haven’t noticed, we’re living in a far from perfect world! MANY of these overweight kids are on government programs and they turn into adults on government programs with government healthcare. Who do you think pays for it? I had MUCH rather head off some of the high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes and heart disease in childhood than pay the exorbitant healthcare costs for the adults who develop these problems. And it’s not 3 meals a day, by the way -it’s breakfast and lunch at school.

Another point is that there are a number of children who only eat at school. If you don’t know this, your head is hopelessly in the sand. Yep, the only time they’re actually served a meal of any type is at school. Should they not eat? Yes, they should, but it needs to be healthy. I wish their parents were better, but wishing doesn’t make it so. My own mother had a ROUGH childhood that she was horribly embarrassed by, and they didn’t have a bunch of subsidized meals at school, BUT many times the only food she got was at school. It would be a great world if parents out there weren’t alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless, lazy, etc. but many are. If we’re going to offer a free education to kids in hopes that they may better themselves and turn out better than their parents, then we DO have to feed their bodies and minds. The thing that troubles me the most is that some of this “study” money should be going to reinstate and improve recess and physical education in our schools. A very big part of the obesity problem is lack of exercise in our kids.

As far as grocery store subsidies -NO. The people they’re trying to get to eat healthier and better aren’t going to do so because a Publix pops up in their neighborhood. They’ll go there, but they’ll still buy smokes, Cokes, beer, Little Debbies and potato chips.

I agree with MJG about the Coach-toting, freshly done nails, $200 weave wearing, brand new car and clothes parents who have kids on subsidized meals at school and also receive food stamps. THERE is a place we need a huge over-haul (and I know this isn’t everyone on food stamps and government help -but it’s way too many)! I think people on food stamps and welfare need to have to pay at special check-out counters and I think they need to be required to turn in receipts for EVERYTHING they spend money on every month. If someone is spending $200 a month on cell charges, hair, nails, etc. -then they don’t get food stamps. Only spending on necessities should be allowed. Just like expense reports at a job -if my employer pays for my meals, gas, etc. on a business trip, then they require that I give them proof of how much it all cost. Since the taxpayers are the “employers” here -we deserve to monitor their spending. Of course I also think, unless you’re disabled, that if you receive welfare then we get to put you to work cleaning our roads, graffiti, maintaining our parks, etc. -but all of this for some reason gets called a violation of the precious welfare recipients civil rights….Anway -another topic for another day!

bunch of yentas

October 14th, 2010
10:43 am

Recently, I heard that a new controversy is whether Government provided Food Stamps may continue to be used to purchase soda. Some who were opposed to such a move point to costs as a reason why soda should remain on the approved list. The news report stated, “Soda is generally cheaper than other drink alternatives”. I laughed. No one NEEDS any drink other than water, ever. You can go your entire life and never drink anything other than water and you will be fine.

Now, personally, I enjoy a cup of coffee (Black), or some Tea, an occassional Orange Juice, and I like to imbibe from time to time. However, I haven’t had a soda in many years and don’t really ever want one again. And there are many days when I drink water only.

Also, drink water from the tap and be thankful you live in an environment you can do that. Don’t drink water from a plastic bottle for a $1 a pop.

JATL

October 14th, 2010
11:00 am

@Bunch of Yentas -you bet I had rather my kid scarf down Oreos than McNuggets (or any school school chicken nuggets or hamburger). In addition to the article about mechanically separated chicken, check out the pink slime in ALL fast food ground beef and ALL school ground beef -you better make sure that stuff is labeled “all natural” or “organic” before you buy it. If you can get them to grind it for you -even better -this is truly disgusting:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31meat.html

MyOpinion

October 14th, 2010
11:06 am

To help answer the question: How do kid and parents dress name brand, nails and hair done while on free/reduced lunch?

This is because most of the time these parents and children are local street pharmacist. Street pharmacists do not have to report their income to the IRS, nor on the free/reduced lunch application. When I was in middle school, one of my friends was a street pharmacist. He came everyday with large amounts of cash on hand to pay for him and his siblings lunches and school fees because mom could not afford to do so. He was the one to take care of his family, but since he was not “of age” to get a legal job, he found something that he was able to work.

As for the females, there was a few that was willing to do anything – and I talking about ANYTHING for $$$. Basically they were prostituting themselves for what they wanted. I knew of a girl that gave head in the park for a 10-piece chicken meal, and no I am not jesting.

Brand name clothing can come at cheaper prices. Just this year I was able to find my fiancée 10 brand-named tee shirts on sale for $52 (or about $5 apiece), regularly priced at $360 so I saved over $300 on that trip alone. I find his brand-named jeans and shorts for about $15-$20 a pair. These are the same prices you would spend at Target or Walmart for the same items, so why not buy brand-named clothing when it is the same price as Walmart / Target items. I have been a budget shopper since grade school. My mother provided the budget and I picked and she approved all of my outfits. With a $200 clothes budget (for the entire school year), I would be able to find at least 10-12 brand-named outfits. My mother would buy one pair of shoes that cost about $80 because it would last the entire school year, which I cleaned daily so it seemed as if I had a new pair everyday. My sister would raid my older cousins closets for brand named clothes they didn’t want or would not wear (some of which still had price tags) and spend her budget to complete outfits.

My cousin has done my hair since I was 12 years old. Sometimes I would pay her with cash or sometimes I would pay her by doing her hair or another service such as cleaning her room. When my cousin was not available, I would ask my sister to do my hair for pay or an exchange of service. We still do this today and I am 24 years old.

If I wanted nails, my sister learned how to do a manicure and pedicure and she would do my nails, which looked professional. The beauty supply also sold pretty stick on nails for a few bucks.

Starting in middle school (when the average child understand that you need money to buy things) For excellent report card – straight A’s – you received $10. Since I had a lot of aunts, uncles, and family friends, I would easily have $100+ on report card day to spend on myself.

My mother would have her hair done because my cousin, sister or I would do it. She didn’t care for nails so she didn’t wear them. My mother had a Ford Explorer because she has A1 credit, bought the car while on sale, and talked it down to a monthly payment she could afford. She wore brand-named clothes because my sister and I would find her clothes items on sale.

My sister and I had all on the things while on reduced/free lunch. My mother’s income did not change enough to get off free/reduced lunch; we just found ways to stay within her budget to get what we wanted. My mother spent no more than the average amount than parents on this blog has admitted to spending on their own children. My sister and I may have appeared as if my mother spent a lot on us, but she did not because we knew how to do our own hair, nails, and shop for brand named clothing. For the extras like a CD player/ipod or video games, my sister and I worked at the age of 14 using a City of Atlanta PIC work permit (don’t know if they still have them today).

FCM

October 14th, 2010
11:50 am

The govt absolutely believes it knows best. It wants to tell you how to think, eat, and do.

MJG they know you want to be responsible for the child. They just don’t care.

The child eating oreos is not your concern. His healthy is not your concern. He and his parents are responsible. IF you know the childs family (or maybe you should) then you could say something to them.

I have a good friend who never makes the child eat veggies. The kid eat very unhealthy. She is proportionate though since she is active. When this child is at my house she eats the veggies I put out. Now I hear she asks them from her parents.

Caycee

October 14th, 2010
11:53 am

I refuse to believe the entire problem lies within our children’s diets. I mean, we all grew up on junk….only difference is we went outside and got the exercise to work it off. Regulate the video game play time and send your kids outside for some exercise people and they’ll stay healthy during their childhood at least.

MyOpinion

October 14th, 2010
12:03 pm

There should be grocery stores in every community.

In my old neighborhood, we didn’t get a grocery store but a local church did open a free garden. The only requirement was volunteer work to keep the garden from overgrown with weeds. Due to the fact that is was fresh free produce (mostly vegetables) you would see the community children tending the garden to later take food home. Once parents realized their children was not stealing the food and that it was indeed free, they came out to help tend the garden to keep a steady supply of food. They ate healthier due to lack funds.

Grocery stores can be expensive. Yes they have great quality food, but at the end of the day they are still expensive. The real purpose of a grocery store is to bring fresh products to the area while making money. Many people in poor neighborhoods shop at the local food mart because it is the only option in the neighborhood and fresh meats and produce sometimes cost 2-3 times more than then a regular priced item in the grocery store.

Fresh produce in season is cheaper, but if you do not know how to consume it, the cost doesn’t matter because you will not eat it. This year was my first year trying yellow squash. I first had it at a luncheon and liked it so I decided to try to make it at home because it was $1 a pound at the grocery store. I liked it, so now it’s my “new” vegetable, while it is cheap.

TPP

October 14th, 2010
12:11 pm

@HB and Betty – So you are in favor of providing incentives to companies to build grocery stores in certain areas while at the same time providing disincentives to the people living in those areas to better themselves and break the cycle of poverty?

Try to for a moment take the ‘feeling’ side out of this argument and use some logic. Too often, particularly in government, we do what sounds good on paper but makes no sense when we actually look at affects to the results we are trying to achieve. If I am a poor person who has to walk a way to the grocery store, at which I pay with a food stamp debit card, and don’t like it, and now a brand new store is built right down the street because of tax incentives from tax payers, what is my incentive to better my situation? If I am that same poor person and I know that if I have another child, it’s ok, because I can get more food stamp subsidies and other benefits to live on, what is my incentive to better my situation? HB mentioned dining at the 7-11 and bringing in good food to the neighborhood. The question you have to ask is – ‘is it everyone’s responsibilty to provide food for that neighborhood, or it the responsibility of the person in that neighborhood to provide food for themselves’? I know you would answer that question with another question, in the lines of ‘how can you not feed the children, it’s not their fault’? True, but when their parents have no incentive to better themselves, or nothing to discourage them from actions they take, what will the end result be? Answer, more of the same, and multiplied at that. What sort of example does that set? Doesn’t that parent have the choice to walk the several miles to the grocery store rather than taking the easy way out at the 7-11 if they really cared about giving their child a good meal? Is knowing that they will get a better meal for free at school part of the reason they don’t make that walk?

In my years I have met several people who have gave me hope that we as American citizens have not given up on the American dream which I define as, providing a better life for my family than I had myself. I recall my parents explaining when my father was stationed in Germany in the Army that often before payday most of the families had run out of money and food. To eat, families would group together and they would all come up with items they had remaining and make a ‘pot luck stew’ of some sort that would feed everyone for a day or two. Having to do that provided them incentive to be more frugal and team together. I know a couple of engineers who came from broken, drug filed homes, with parents in and out of jail, bad schools, and high crime areas. Both have spoke similar words ‘my goal was to do whatever I had to in order to get away from that environment and make a life for myself’. Both were routinely harrassed and beat up as kids for studying instead of playing outside, but that only made them more resilient and determined. But that was many years, many politicians, and many new government programs ago. Times have changed from giving a hand up to giving a hand out. We have gone from being a society achieving happiness due to our individual achievments to one of being complacent and taking the easy way out whenever a road block or dificult time comes our way. We count on others too often, mainly government, to change another person’s or group’s behavior and lifestyle to benefit ourselves or another group. Until individual responsibility returns to our society we will always have the discussion of government programs being in need of ‘reform’. We would all be better without these government programs. Use some logic….it will make sense if you think about it enough.

Rebecca Jamison

October 14th, 2010
12:23 pm

NO!!! Parents need to be more informed of how to eat healthy and how to make sure their children eat healthy, too. If that were my child who came home with his sandwich not eaten, I would make sure there were consequences….and make sure that he doesn’t throw out his uneaten food- we made sure that our children don’t throw away what they don’t eat in their lunchboxes- we started this rule early on, so they automatically do this now…wow, talk about people not taking responsibility for their own lives, which includes taking responsibility for their children as well..

http://www.paragonfinancial.net/

M1chelle

October 14th, 2010
12:34 pm

Thanks for your statement Cayce and Betty!! The largest entitlement program is Medicare/Medicaid not school lunch programs, however, if there is mention of cutting that, people get really mad about that.

Sandra

October 14th, 2010
1:22 pm

Next time I come to Georgia to visit my family I want to go clothes shopping with MyOpinion. :-)

You don’t need to be rich to feed your kids well. My dad retired from the army when I was 8 and bought a small farm out in the middle of nowhere. At first my dad went to uni but we were not able to make ends meet and he had to stop after the first year. Then were times that he didn’t have a job and times that he was working two but no matter how tough things became my mom always fed us kids. She planted a huge veg garden [even when dad was in the military she managed to find a (even if it was stamp sized) patch to grow something every where we moved] and in her spare time sewed our clothes, quilted (while watching tv), cooked, cleaned, got up early every morning to stoke the fire in the woodstove (main source of heat in the house until around 10-15 years ago), make us a hot breakfast every day before school, raised chickens, cattle and pigs, and still found the time to make sure we did our homework. It just takes alot more work.

But I do remember, even with all her and dad’s hard work, there was a year or two that we were poorer than dirt and had to have free and then reduced meals at school until we got back onto our feet. So I do believe in free or reduced school meals for children that need it. Other than that we brought our own lunch (paper bags with pork chop sandwiches and juice in a canning jar).

Also ,years ago when my husband was out of work, I managed to buy food, cleaning supplies and diapers on a budget of £40 a week for a family of 5 (at the time). I did it by buying a cookbook (on sale) of recipes used in England during WW2 and rationing. Stuffed cabbage, champ or oatmeal soup anyone?

Betty

October 14th, 2010
1:36 pm

@TPP–That’s going to be a pretty long walk, the few miles there and back, several times a week for fresh food, especially since they can only carry a bag or two each trip with no trunk of a car to fill. I hope someone’s keeping an eye on any young children they left at home while they spent the hours it took to go grocery shopping because the busy intersections, nasty weather, extreme heat or cold were not ideal circumstances to bring their kids along for a “teachable moment” walk to buy fresh, healthy food.

I’m inspired by your story of the engineers who came from difficult backgrounds and had the courage, drive and ambition to change their circumstances. But there are also very strong, honest, people with integrity; many of them in mimunum-wage jobs, who face everyday challenges that I cannot even imagine all while trying to raise their kids to have a better life. Giving them access to a grocery store similar to the one on every corner in the part of town where I live doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. I don’t consider it a hand-out if we can take the challenge of having to walk several miles to get fresh food at decent prices taken off their plate.

penguinmom

October 14th, 2010
1:39 pm

No, the government should not be building grocery stores or serving dinner at school.

From the book NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman:
Sleep loss is linked more strongly to the rise in obesity in our nation than TV/videogames. Kids today get about an hour less sleep than kids in the 70’s did. This lack of sleep causes physical changes which lead to your body retaining more fat, being more hungry (hormone gherlin increases), not feeling full (hormone leptin decreased) and not being able to absorb glucose as well so that you have less energy.
One study of adults showed that not getting enough slow-wave (non-dreaming) sleep had a similar hormone affect as a weight gain of 30 pounds. Since kids spend a much longer time in the slow-wave sleep pattern than adults, this affect could be higher on them.

HB

October 14th, 2010
1:43 pm

Wow, TPP. A grocery store might make someone’s bad neighborhood too good, thus providing a disincentive to get out? A parent who worked all day and a minimum wage job should have no problem walking miles to a grocery store? And I guess the 70-year-old grandma raising grandkids should be able to do the same? If you visit a poor neighborhood, I think you’ll see a disproportionate number of sick, disabled, and elderly people who aren’t likely to increase their income enough to move to better living quarters. But we should avoid improving their neighborhood at all to encourage those who are able to get a better job to do so and move out? That’s some weird logic.

Are most people here who are against the tax breaks for grocery stores against tax breaks for other businesses? Or is it just the grocery stores that are a problem? Tax incentives are a common way of encouraging business growth. In my area, they have been given to private developers to build commercial town centers that, in turn, brought traffic to existing nearby businesses and enough activity for businesses to reopen in nearby empty storefronts. Companies get tax breaks to open factories and bring jobs in many areas. Many states are giving tax incentives to the movie/TV industry — you may have noticed how many new TV shows are shot outside of L.A. (based on how many seem to be in Dallas, I bet they’re offering great deals). The productions create jobs and often increase tourism, both of which help boost the local economy. So why isn’t a grocery store in a poor area a good use of these same kinds of incentives? I know people in live in poor neighborhoods who are desperate for somewhere to shop. A grocery store can provide decent jobs for many in the neighborhood and give everyone a place to buy a reasonably priced gallon of milk, meat that isn’t in hot dog form, and even fresh, frozen, or canned veggies, and yes, people will buy those things if there’s a grocery store rather than having convenience store fare or McD’s for dinner most nights. A homecooked meatloaf and canned green beans may not be the dinner of a yoga instructor, but’s it’s healthier and cheaper than what I can buy at the 7-11 in my building.

bunch of yentas

October 14th, 2010
1:47 pm

There is a huge misconception about welfare and food stamps in this country.

I guess people think that that lifestyle is easy. I don’t know. I tried to help a person with a severe disability (blindness) apply for welfare, foodstamps, and housing assistance. I took a day off of work to help the person. The process is a nightmare. They ask for things that this person would not have. Once everything was done, which took many return trips to the governmental offices, the blind person was given $800 a month assistance and reduced rent. It wasn’t close to enough.

Yes, there are people who are lazy. Yes, there are abuses to the system. But to believe that being in the system is somehow preferable to people is asinine and shows that the person commenting has no idea of what its actually like.

The real issue is the revolving door. People who are born into the system have very little chance of breaking the cycle.

Grocery stores in the "poor"...

October 14th, 2010
1:49 pm

…and underserved area; while a great idea and ideal, the reality of the situation is that this has been tried before and the crime and underuse of the store(s) caused them to close. Even on Cascade Road, an area near the airport that has absolutely BOOMED in the past 5-7 years recently lost a big box, name brand grocery retailer to these problems – the same thing happened downtown in the North Ave / Ponce de Leon area where another long term, big name grocery was forced to leave.

Any other solutions?

motherjanegoose

October 14th, 2010
2:53 pm

To me, letting kids pick out their own food and watching them select junk food is just like GIVING things to adults who could be asked work for it.

I am ALL about helping someone who is truly down on their luck but when entire families have ALWAYS existed on someone else’s dime FOREVER ….are we really helping them?

@ JATL…I am in your camp:
WHY do those on food stamps, or whatever they are called now, get to pick out exactly what they want to eat: steak, jug of pre-made sweet tea and bag of ready to roll salad, also frozen french fries. Perhaps this would feed more and last longer:
3 pounds of chicken thighs, a bag of rice, a bag of carrots, loaf of bread,box of tea bags and a pound of sugar. Oh, you don’t want to eat the same thing for 3 days? I’m sorry!

I cannot afford to drive a Lexus and I do not whine about it. I drive a Chevy and I paid for it.
Am I embarrassed…not really. To those who do have a Lexus…good for you!

I have never understood why we have to be so discreet about those who are using government money to buy things. If I cannot afford a car, I take a bus or carpool…how discreet is that?

If you live in government housing do you get to tell your provider what color paint you want on the walls if that you prefer granite counter tops?

To me, when others are donating….you take what they give you or figure out a way to buy it yourself.
My kids learned it long ago…they both have jobs to pay for what they want and not for what they need.

Thanks grocery stores in the poor….good points.

FYI…I voted absentee today…not sure if we can reverse the damage that is now being done….we will see!

TPP

October 14th, 2010
3:26 pm

M1chelle, you are totally wrong. Medicare and Medicaid are only entitlements to those not paying into them. And I personally would love to see them go away.

Cayce, you seem to believe that someone questioning the interference of the Federal government in our lives is against any sort of government, to which you are wrong. What sort of agenda do you believe the blogger is trying to push? She wants the government to quit making decisions for her and her family, so isn’t that anti-agenda? An agenda is when you wish to force someone INTO a situation, not OUT of one.

Since you are quoting the Constitution and you are correct that there is no right to an education in it then you will surely know what IS in it that grants the Federal government authority. That would be the Enumerated Powers, a specific list of items the federal government is allowed to do. All other matters are reserved to the States, so if a State wishes to provide a publicly funded education system, then fine, they can do so. But as with any program of this type there are consequences. The main consequence being that many people pay into the system and receive no direct benefit. The consequences of that are politicians picking and chosing how to ‘design’ their legislation to eliminate some groups from being affected, yet still allowing themselves to be re-elected. On a side note, no, you shouldn’t have to pay for roads or schools you don’t use.

Remember reading about schools where a individual town educated their own children or at least took responsibility for it? If a town did not have a school and a teacher the parents taught their children. Look how far we have strayed away from that local approach to education to now with the federal government first taking money from individuals who earned it, defining programs they feel are necessary, and then deciding who to redistribute the money back to in order to somehow produce a desired affect down to a local level. The point is not that programs aren’t necessary, it’s that it should not be necessary for the federal government to get involved as with this case of school nutrition.

What if some beaurocrat and lobyist decide a balanced lunch for students includes oranges? This may make sense for states like FL and CA, but what about WA where apples may be just as good a substitute and for less of a financial impact? Of course this decision angers the apple, banana, and grape producers, so they are left out. So now the federal politicians go back to drawing board and figure out how to appease or subsidize the other fruit growers. A new fruit agency would be set up to figure this out, requiring more tax dollars and resources. More people would be affected with taxes without receiving a benefit. What happens when this same scenario occurs with so many different subjects? When this happens with a job, someone may quit. Not preferered, but someone is free to do so. If this happens in a town or state, someone may move. This is a big deal for most people, but still probable. Now what happens when the same happens with the federal government? Where is there to go, what can you do?

As a final note, I am always amazed at how the liberal leaning people always throw religion into the mix when they know whatever program they are advocating cannot be justified. It’s always ‘What would Jesus do?’ Is this some sort of a guilt trip imposement? Please know that it doesn’t work because we know that Jesus didn’t go around forcing people to pay taxes and then feed people by spreading the money around. He did so by putting forth his OWN individual effort and teachings. He accomplished his goals by instilling into people a true belief in themselves and the belief in a higher power they could never understand. This higher power is not government. Those of us who recognize this are usually the ones spending their free time on the school PTO board, coaching soccer teams, participating as room parents, volunteering time to have struggling students read to them in class, helping their own chilren’s classmates with math problems their parents don’t understand, and helping organize the neighborhood parade. If you are happy with paying taxes for programs that make little, no, or inverse difference, so be it.