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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Don’t Read This If You Are About To Eat

Susan Norwood couldn’t resist guest blogging today on FOOD.

Here is Nashville, we once again have a snow day. So far this month, we have had a whole week off of school. Today, we are off again. The only thing better than sitting around reading, is sitting around eating. Cooking is not really my thing, but the long cold days have turned my interests to food. Evidently, my students feel the same way.

I had a copy of Everyday with Rachael Ray (February 2011) sitting on my desk. The bright red magazine lured me in with its tempting captions: Comfort Food We Love! The Best Burger! Valentine’s Gifts! Ooh. Can we say food porn? This magazine was for me- not my classroom library, so I was surprised when a boy asked to read it. He read the book for a full 20 minutes without talking.

This got me to thinking. Books and magazines about food are relevant to students. Look how popular all of the food reality shows are. Providing students with materials about what they eat is enormously important. Michelle Obama has launched an iniative to combat childhood obesity. I did a little bit of checking to see what she has had to say about this problem.

In a speech to the NAACP Annual Convention in 2010, she said that African American kids are significantly more likely to be obese than white children. Nearly half of all African American children will develop diabetes at some point in their lives. This shocks me!

Back to my classroom.  A couple of years ago, I had a student- a boy who had immigrated from Ghana. One day I instructed students to write a short essay about their favorite restaurant. He told me that he could not write this essay because his family did not eat out. “Why not? “ I asked. Ever so politely, he replied, “We do not wish to be fat like Americans.” Ouch. Sadly, he was right.

I remember reading aloud a chapter from Michael Pollan’s Omnivore Don’t Read This If You Are About To EatOmnivore’s Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat.  The chapter was on McDonalds, and how their meals are designed to be eaten in a car. This was how Chicken Nuggets came to be. What really astounded the kids was when they found out that there are 38 ingredients in a McNugget.  Pollen tells us that the stuff that is sprayed on them to keep them fresh-looking is a form of butane (lighter fluid). Kids reacted in horror. Some flatly refused to believe this. Most agreed with me, though, that in the future they would stick with hamburgers that only have a few ingredients. This lesson has become semi-famous. I still have kids ask to read the book and take it home to share with parents.

After they digest the information on the McNugget (pun intended), I let them know what’s in cattle feed. It’s disgusting—some of it isn’t even food, and by the way, the cows stand in poop all day.

To be continued . . .