Chestnut Street Inn

Fritter on a white plate, garnished with white sauce and herbs

The Sad Truth About Our Industrialized Food System

I find it incomprehensible how institutions like schoools, hospitals and nursing homes have become the lowest rung of importance in our industrialized food system. I don’t know if any of you have had the occasion of late to experience any of the foods served at any of these institutions but the situation is atrocious.

Many of you know that I have spent some time working with children and doing cooking demos at schools trying to educate kids on the benefits of healthy eating. Part of that was inspired by the likes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, part by the White House Let’s Move initiative, but basically I was motivated to try to connect with kids and show them that healthy doesn’t necessarily mean yucky. Believe it or not, kids are much more open minded than we think they are. If you give them the opportunity to try new things, they are quite receptive. That being said, when you see what they are actually being fed by school cafeterias, it is incredibly disheartening. All the education and encouragement in the world won’t be worth a darn thing if they continue serving the slop they do in schools.

Many kids in this country only have 2 meals a day and they are the 2 that they get for free at school. When all they are being fed is fried, fatty, white starches and processed, pre-packaged frankenfoods it is no wonder that we are suffering from an epidemic of obesity amongst school aged children. It is absolutely disgusting.

However, if you think schools are bad, nursing homes are even worse. About a month and a half ago my grandmother had to be admitted to a nursing home and I frequently had occasion to visit her during meal times. A sampling of the “food” she has been fed that supposedly meets some kind of minimal nutritional requirement includes items like cheetos, white bread, mashed potatoes from a box, chocolate cookies, chocolate or strawberry milk, sloppy joes and mystery meat I have yet to identify as having come from any particular animal. While I understand there are huge costs associated with running a nursing facility, many older individuals suffer from numerous dietary restrictions associated with everything from diabetes to heart problems to diverticulitis to acid reflux. You can’t tell me that these foods qualify as healthy for those individuals. Heck, I don’t think they qualify as healthy for even a younger individual without any health problems.

And last week, when I was in the hospital after what I’d call moderately invasive surgery, the items offered to me for meals included hamburgers, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, cake, cookies, flavored milk, veggies with ranch dressing and JELLO. When I asked the gentleman if they had yogurt, I was promptly told that never in the years that he has been working at that hospital has anyone ever asked for or been served yogurt. I was mortified.

What has to occur in the history of an industrialized food system that places such little value on the most vulnerable members of the population? I understand the food lobby is huge and I get that food manufacturers are being paid government subsidies to provide these institutions with cheap food in abundance, but why do we stand for it?? Are we so desensitized to what good food is that we actually believe that this kind of food is healthy or even remotely nutritious??

It makes sense that kids are not standing up for something better because they don’t know any better, but their parents should be angered by what they are being fed. And the adult children of those who are in nursing homes should be even more insensed by what their parents are being fed. What’s more is that any patient who has ever been in a hospital should be outraged by the offerings they are being given when they are at their most fragile. I don’t know about you but for me, it’s not ok. Something has to be done. I don’t believe that the system cannot be changed by a few people. If one person gets another person to speak up against this kind of atrocity, eventually we’ll have an army of folks speaking out against what I think is the deliberate poisoning of a vast segment of our population. We have to realize at some point that what we put into our bodies in the form of food is as important if not more important than any kind of medication you might be prescribed. We have to get back to a society where food is real, not synthetic. Respected, not abused. It’s time for us all to wake up and smell the coffee before it’s too late.

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