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Living Below the Line: Day 3 Recap

This afternoon I was able to hop on a phone call with the Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, her son Hunter Biden who is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the World Food Program so that we could talk about food and the lack of it for those living below the line of poverty. It was a great phone call where my fellow teammates and I got to ask questions about the challenge, the work of the WFP, and about how we have a worldwide challenge on our hands. Most importantly, though, about how we have the tools at our disposal to fix it.

For me, this week, it comes in the form of a can. Of beans. Lots of beans to get my daily allowance of protein.


As with anything I talk about be it food or shoes or technology, I brought it around to education. I always do that. It is unavoidable

Some of what I said to the Bidens and the other ladies on the call is mentioned in the video below: that we don't have an achievement gap in schools. We have a poverty gap that manifests itself in the classroom. That's why I vehemently disagree with tying state and federal funding to state assessments. That's why I believe parents have the choice to opt-out of testing. Telling schools they are FAILING when our nation's poorest are trying to eat enough to sustain them to even get their children to school is wrong on every level imaginable.

The other thing I mentioned (I was on a roll, I really am all fired up now) was that when a problem becomes too big for society that we give it to the school system. You'll see what I mean when you watch the video.

Since this is my mid-week check in I would be remiss if I didn't mention how intolerable I've been today at work. My secretary asked me what was wrong because I wasn't myself and I knew it was true. The only time I was joyful was when I took over a classroom for a teacher so I could lead a discussion to preview a book they're about to begin reading: The Giver by Lois Lowry. When I did the pre-teaching I did some vocabulary work on "utopia" and we created a perfect world. They mentioned that everyone would be healthy, educated, and well fed. In fact, the students demanded that I put "bacon" on our Utopian list of a Perfect World. They were dead serious. 

When our classroom discussion came around to healthy eating I was delighted to find that students know what good food is and they understand the politics around it. I shared with them my challenge this week and then, at lunch, a few of them held up their lunch trays full of pizza and salad (nothing too green, sadly, since iceberg lettuce seems to rule) and gave me Sad Face and a Thumbs Down sign. These young children, no older than 13, understand bad food. One boy came up to me and said, "We don't even have cooks. Just people who know how to put a pizza together on a tray or throw some fries in the oven. That's not food."

Basically, this is all connected for me:

The giant corporations and box stores who sell the genetically modified food to the masses to "feed" us.

The organic movement that excludes anyone not wealthy enough to partake in it.

The politics of school lunch programs and what passes for food.

The problems schools and society are faced with that's compartmentalized in a way that muddies the waters so we can't see clearly enough how to fix it.

Those students get it. The adults ought to be able to do something about it.


Be sure to check out yesterday's post on the math of living on a $1.50 a day.

In the video I reference a James Beard Foundation Award Winning book I'm reading entitled Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. If you're interested, here's a link to that.

« Living Below the Line: Day 4 | Main | Living Below the Line: Day 2 Recap »

Reader Comments (9)

I used to work every spare period in the cafeteria at my school to earn free lunches for me and my siblings, those cooks actually cooked real food and it was worth working for. Keep on advocating, Kelly, grab that platform.

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jones

I had to stop watching the video today because I needed to comment before the end.
We don't have any form a meal program at my school, so to speak. We have a snack basket, that some teachers use and others don't. The teachers who don't have chosen not to because they feel the students should be bringing the food from home. As I think more about this idea it makes me sad because the truth is, in the school that I work at there are many families who really cannot afford food for everyone in the house.

You also got me thinking...what if some of the behaviours and inability to focus is because of the food they ARE eating. So many of the students I see around the school are eating CRAP. Bags of chips, A pack of ramen noodles, sugary snacks, lunchables, crap, crap, crap. The number of students who throw out a piece of fruit or half eaten sandwich, in favour of something sugary. I'm one of those horrible teachers who make them take their sandwich or uneaten fruit home (or at least make them put it back in their lunch bag!)

I really am wondering if the bi-product of all of this crappy food consumption is resulting in what we are seeing in the classroom? Not saying this is the exclusive problem, but certainly it has to be a contributing factor.

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Do you think your lack of energy is calories, protein, or veggies?

I never thought about the lack of food causing kids to not have energy to learn. Something to think about.

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrandeMocha

GrandeMocha, I think it's the lack of protein because I eat that with regularity and now it's depleted on this diet, but also the veggies because for the last 2 months I've had a green smoothie nearly every day. Kale/spinach with a banana or some blueberries and a protein powder as well. I am getting enough calories, but they're from the wrong foods.

Amanda, I know for sure that it's because of what they ARE eating and that still adds up to what they're NOT. Today, I reamed a kid (in that motherly way) because he was eating a container of cotton candy. A CONTAINER. That's how it comes as candy. So, yes, what we see in the classroom is a summation of all of these problems: GMOs in their foods, too much milk and milk based products (a ton of them are lactose intolerant, an issue we didn't have when I was a kid) and chips and crap like Doritos that just give zero nutrients.

May 1, 2013 | Registered CommenterMocha Momma

I have always a rule that students could not drink pop or eat candy during our first nutrition break (we have 2 per day). I also made them eat their "most nutritious" food during the first break. I was just talking with a kid today, that I taught last year, about the fact that she was drinking a pop during first break...she apologized and look guilty. And with a completely judgemental drives me nuts when I walk into a classroom and see students eating candy...before 10 a.m. WTH?! I'm not sure how many teachers (in my school or elsewhere) equate what students eat with what they see in the classroom. :( *deep sigh*
Thank you for doing this!

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Remember how everyone bagged on Jamie Oliver? He was right....

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

YES, Natalie. I remember and I thought they used too many elementary school students. Middle and high school kids would have (I think) gladly taken the better food choices.

May 1, 2013 | Registered CommenterMocha Momma

He was in a very poor area that was used to eating junk/fried foods and they were resistant to change. The parents didn't support it and neither did the food service people. I think the kids just followed their (bad) examples.

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

The second Jamie Oliver Food Revolution was in LA and was in high schools and showed the kids did totally get the healthy food options. I know it wasn't fully broadcast in the US so it would be well worth downloading. Or I've got it and would be happy to burn it for you. He even uses the science class to show what stuff goes into making candy coating and keeping cookie dough soft, etc. Gag factor for sure.

May 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnnet

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