School Lunch #Foodrevolution in Full Swing (but keep an eye on counter-revolutionaries)

Warning: this post may be harmful or fatal to naïve & overly patriotic American flag wavers…

This is sort of a follow-up to a post just over a month ago: It’s The Crap; Just Eat Real Food. In large part that post was about the abysmal state of “school lunches” in the USA — especially in comparison to the far higher quality exhibited in pretty much every other country on the face of the Earth. That’s right: America sucks. When it comes to food, most Americans are treating their kids like shit.

When I see how kids are eating in general in America now, I’m satisfied to declare that I’m becoming increasingly embarrassed to even refer to myself as one. I’d be perfectly happy to see the 200 & somthing-yr-old project go right down the shitter for good, given that such loathsome atrocities have been perpetuated for so long. But you can’t do that because these are kids we’re talking about and so, I’m all for beating adults into submission on this topic — with truncheons, if necessary. And if you think that’s extreme then realize that what we’re talking about here is a pernicious form of abuse — malnourishment — carried out over roughly two decades — and increasingly less — until the kids become adults and then go perpetuate the same sort of abuse on their own children because the food culture in this country, particularly for kids, has been driven down to the lowest depths of mediocrity and depravity of anyplace on the face of the planet. Even dirty little third-world shitholes have a better food culture than America, now. I know, because I’ve had fabulous street vendor meals in many of them, from Djibouti to remote Islands in the Philippines without even the benefit of electricity. Poor people care about their food because getting it requires so great a proportion of their time and income. They care, and it is precisely this high time & effort value in food that forms the basis of healthful and wholesome food cultures around the world in the first place. How much time & effort goes into a trip to McDonald’s? Hell, we can’t even be bothered with taking the time to go in and sit down, anymore.

When I now hear tripe about how America is “the greatest country on Earth,” I wanna puke. It’s real simple: the Greatest Country on Earth would be absolutely the last place on Earth you would find its most precious members of society — its children — eating garbage, getting obese to the rate of 20%, now; and developing diabetes and fatty liver disease at ages unprecedented in all of human history. A quote from that post linked above.

What impressed me most of all about the French school lunch was not just the deliciousness of the food, but that everything about it — the brightly decorated lunchrooms, the gorgeous kitchens, the lunch moms, the chefs — sent such a deep message of caring. To my ears it fairly screamed, “We care about and love our children. They are us, after all, and we want them to eat well and be nourished.”

Unfortunately, that is about the last message American school lunch sends to our children. Instead, we’re saying, “We have to feed you something; it’s gotta be cheap, and we don’t really care about it or you.”

So stop with that “greatest country” BULLSHIT! until the house is in order, by which I mean a general public default on the most basic and fundamental responsibility an animal ever has in its entire life: proper care, nourishment and training of offspring until they are competently self-sufficient.

What is more fundamental than that? What does it say about a country that’s the richest in the world, yet has the world’s most obese and unhealthy children? Greatest country? You’re deluded, then. It’s not even close. How can it be, with such a deeply damaged culture of basic food, nutrition, health?

Americans: Here’s what Real Food looks like, you despicable, uncaring, ignorant fools; you child molesters. Get off your fat, lazy, miserable asses; go shopping, and for a change, instead of filling your cart with pop-tarts, hot pockets, fruit loops, frozen pizzas, ice cream, candy, and sugar drinks, fill it with Real Food. Then dust off that cookbook you never even cracked open and get busy.

You’re too tired you say? Well try Real Food. It’s amazing what it’ll do for energy. Processed garbage is a vicious circle. Get off, and get your kids off it too.

Thankfully there seems to be a Food Revolution underway. And I’m going to stay entirely off the political aspects of this because, you know what? I don’t give a damn. It’s the food culture that’s totally fucked. It’s not about whose pockets are being picked to pay for it, really. If we had a food culture that existed as it did when my grandparents, parents, and I were growing up, this wouldn’t even be an issue. People would simply eat well whether they bought it at school, it was a “free lunch,” or whether they brought it from home. If food and its quality and wholsemeness were essential, inviolable concerns the money would take care of itself, rest assured.

Part of the previous post I linked to above was about the mysterious Mrs. Q, the school teacher documenting her year of torture eating school lunches. Well, she has now grabbed the attention of Good Morning America, as well as Jamie Oliver and others.

But not so fast… Evil lurks in the shadows. Yes, I’m talking about the dual menace to society: Margot Wootan and the Center for “Science” in the Public “Interest” (CSPI).

…but what’s perhaps most striking is what the meals look and taste like – and the rogues’ gallery of components (fries, canned green beans, cling peaches in heavy syrup) that are missing.

Revolution shuns high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, trans fats and deep-frying. Its meats and milk are hormone- and antibiotic-free, and many of its ingredients are organic and locally sourced. […]

Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says she’s slightly concerned with Revolution’s insistence on natural, local ingredients.

“You can have full-fat cheese from a local farmer, and it’s still going to clog your arteries and give you heart disease,” she says. “Having the food be natural is nice, but a bigger threat to children’s health is making sure that there’s not too much salt and not too much saturated fat.”

…[tapping fingers on desk]…

So I know this post is largely preaching to the choir because all you great readers are part of the revolution to restore a rational, caring Food Culture in America we can once again be proud of. So get out there and talk and celebrate and promote Real Food.

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  1. Organic Gabe on March 31, 2010 at 15:39

    I agree with you Richard, in many poor countries, kids eat healthier foods – yeah the artery clogging saturated fats included ;)

    The sad yet prevalent attitude of “whatever” or “I don’t care” is intolerable.

  2. Amy on March 31, 2010 at 15:56

    Your recent post on school lunches and Jamie Oliver’s show were my first clues as to the deteriorating state of food in the schools, as I don’t have kids and haven’t been one for a long time. I was shaking with rage and holding back tears as I saw Jamie Oliver’s show. At least the issue is getting some media exposure now. Hopefully more and more people in the know will be around to counter CW BS that CSPI and other “experts” spout.

  3. ToddBS on March 31, 2010 at 15:27

    My daughter’s elementary school has a salad bar and she eats from that every day. In fact, she has a second persona at school: she tells them she’s a vegetarian. I let it slide because she eats plenty of meat at home (she probably loves bacon more than I do, which I thought wasn’t possible).

    I’m sure the salad dressing has some HFCS in it, but it still has to be better than the alternative. Now if I could just get her to eat something from home.

  4. Aaron Griffin on March 31, 2010 at 15:38

    *golf clap*

    Right on, man

    • Buckeye on April 1, 2010 at 09:38

      I prefer the slow clap from the move “Rudy”, but I am with you. Spot on Richard.

  5. Melissa on March 31, 2010 at 15:49

    Right on!

    Seems like Reason magazine had an libertarian aneurysm on the subject. I don’t support government schools either and definitely support efforts to weaken their control, but they are a reality of life and the government shouldn’t have carte blanche to poison kids unfortunate enough to attend them. Kids don’t have the ability to chose their schools. Even private schools serve garbage…I’m almost afraid to even have children myself.

    I do think overemphasis on fresh and local gets in the way of things. Frozen vegetables are pretty much just as good as fresh local ones unless you are a chef or a gourmet.

  6. -Brandon on March 31, 2010 at 15:51

    Yeah, what you said. We just got back from about 6 weeks in SE Asia…mostly Thailand. Food was great, and not touristy crap either. Kind of makes us look a bit bass ackwards.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 15:59

      Spent a lot of time there in the 80s — sometime a month or more at a time: Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, and various islands. Every day was a food extravaganza regardless of where we were. One of my favs was a resto on a rocky point in Koh Samet. They had a generator because the island generator shut down at 10 every night.

      Beast giant prawns I’ve ever had. To this day.

      I don’t even think processed junk could be has at any price. They had a proper culture around food.

      Gotta get back there. Wife has never been and I’m motivated.

  7. Theresa on March 31, 2010 at 16:00

    We’ve been watching “Food Revolution” and even my kids are grossed out. (They’re all on board with the natural/real food – they were raised that way, and now they’re teenagers and can’t stand SAD crap.) (score!) I think the show is a good thing – certainly as far as promoting real food – and definitely as a starting point. Unfortunately, getting rid of the CW no-fat mantra will take much longer.

    Here’s a funny story for you: Today, girl at the high school lunch table bragged to my son that she was giving up bread because it’s bad for you. He asked why she was still eating chips and candy, and she quickly clarified that she was NOT going low carb, just no bread and no fat. He told her fat was good for her, and she laughed at him. He didn’t like her anyway.

    Keep up the good work, Richard!

  8. Laurie on March 31, 2010 at 16:01

    I have taught in high schools for 23 years now. I can count on one hand how many times I have eaten school cafeteria food. It is abysmal. The kids have no choice if they don’t bring food from home. The menu is driven by what kids will buy most and god knows that 14 – 18 year olds always make the best choices, don’t they? Every single day, the menu contains a pizza variation, some sort of potato product (baked, not fried, ’cause that’s healthier, right?) and the token salad bar with wilted lettuce and tasteless tomatoes. Even the kids make fun of the guv’ment food. Beverages are sugar-laden “healthy” juice drinks and Powerade. Goodhearted Jamie Oliver has it wrong in spots – he is a victim of CW himself – but he is right about the shame of what we feed kids in school. However, most of what kids are eating at home is even worse – you are spot on about that.

    I was just in England and France last summer. England’s food is abysmal as well. Chain carryouts everywhere, same processed crap. My daughter did a 6-month study abroad there last year and I had to send her some contraband (non-perishable) food wrapped up in clothes. Just like here, there are places to buy decent food, but the populace prefers the same junk Americans do and they are showing it in their waistlines. While I was there, I ate in Jamie’s Fifteen restaurant. It was glorious – the man does know how to teach people to prepare fresh food.

    France was still a culinary wonder. They do have their share of junk and everyone smokes so they don’t eat. They eat way too much bread and the dark circles under their eyes show it, but the meat and vegetables are first rate. I had some great meals there! We spent several evenings in the park snacking on fresh raspberries and cheese bought at the local quick market (about as 7-11 unlike as you can get).

    Unfortunately, I think most “developed” countries are losing their way and the poorer countries have to rely on real food. Wonder who will end up surviving THAT natural selection?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 16:44

      Yep Laurie. Good word for Jamie. He is good hearted. He really, really cares. Yea, not going to be paleo anytime soon, but his inspiration is going to be worlds away from where we are now.

      I can support that.

  9. Richard A. on March 31, 2010 at 16:21

    How about if we start cleaning up the food lunch program by banning chocolate milk? Do you realize how much sugar is added to chocolate milk?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 16:40

      I’m opposed on principle of banning anything, though if districts decide on their own to eliminate, that’s fine.

      I’m not looking for solutions from DC. Only make matters worse. I’m for a cultural food revolution here and that’s why I don’t preach paleo here. I could kind all sorts of things wrong with Oliver’s approach, for example.

      But in spite of the errors and shortcomings, he’s a chef, he loves great food and the care that goes into it, and he’s very good at inspiring others along those lines.

      Kids are no dummies. Ignorant, but not dumb. They simply need to be shown what’s good & beautiful and even if not paleo at least the ball is moving in a better direction.

      But yea, chocolate milk is awful.

      • John Paul on March 31, 2010 at 16:58

        Banning is a short term solution. A good long term solution the government has easy control with is with subsidies. I am pretty sure that the US government spends billions every year on farm subsidies. It will be great if those billions are poured into family run farms raising grass fed meat or pasture eggs. This will surely make eating healthy cheaper.

      • James on March 31, 2010 at 20:01

        You just hit a nail on the head.
        Few people are aware of the subsidies going to the grain industry (which is an indirect subsidy to the pharma industry).
        Without those subsidies there may be no healthcare crisis to begin with.

      • JLB on April 1, 2010 at 08:33

        What the gov’t pays for it controls. If I don’t like farm subsidies I like small family farm subsidies even less. That is essentially taking my money, running it through the bureaucrat filter then giving it back with mandates attached.

  10. Mark on March 31, 2010 at 16:50

    Ditto on the golf clap.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 16:55

      Ok, so you guys made me have to Google it. I’m guessing you mean something along the lines of the Fark variation. :)

      • Mark on April 1, 2010 at 06:56

        I had no idea about all the meanings…I meant it in the fark way though.

  11. chris on March 31, 2010 at 16:56

    How does this fit into your Anarcho rants?

    I mean who sends their kids to public U.S. schools anymore? If you think the food is inferior sit in on a contemporary American elementary school class for half a day; sophisticated day-care is all, absolute rubbish. The average American high school graduate is only functionally literate, is barely numerate, and is incapable of expressing even basic historical timelines. Yet, they have been successfully instilled with a sense of entitlement that would make a 19th century aristocrat blush.

    And who sends their kids to school these days without having prepared a proper lunch for them anyhow?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 17:08

      Chris, I get you, man and believe me that’s were my heart is.

      It’s just that at some point culture overrules and that’s what this is about.

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I think freedom & individualism best rest on a sound foundational culture. Good food is a good thing to get in order.


      • chris on March 31, 2010 at 17:33

        E pluribus unum is so pre postmodern Richard. Didn’t you get the memo? Re: The culture of multiculturalism. In the old days you could actually preach a rights n’ responsibilities, don’t-tread-on-me, anti-determinist sermon with a straight face. Have you noticed what the federal government has been up to for the past, oh 50-years? We ain’t ever going back…

        Turn off, tune out and drop trowel, I say. Now I know how the Plymouth Colonialists must’ve felt pre-crossing.

        (Hey have you read “Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a Cultural History)” )?

        I hear you though Richard, I do.

      • JLB on April 1, 2010 at 08:52

        I hear you too. Food is good for illustrative purposes but the problem is marrow deep at this point. Systemic perhaps. I believe change starts at home. I have the power to reject what I find unacceptable if and only if I am willing to put my money [and time] where my mouth is.

      • Dana on April 7, 2010 at 19:14

        Multiculturalism isn’t supposed to be about evading responsibility, though. The original point was that other cultures have something constructive to contribute to the world besides white Protestant Christian culture.

        In case you hadn’t noticed, all those cultures Richard’s talking about that feed their kids better than we do? The majority of them belong to people of color. And none of them are white Protestant American. (Although I wonder if the Amish don’t come close.)

        The real problem is assimilation. The very premise is hypocritical. Had our colonial ancestors practiced what American conservatives are now preaching in this regard, we would have a far greater amount of freedom, we’d be getting along much better with our ecological surroundings (not perfectly, just *better*), and we wouldn’t be feeding our kids giant truckloads of crap each and every day.

        We also wouldn’t be speaking English, but never mind.

  12. Dave, RN on March 31, 2010 at 18:30

    You said what I’ve been thinking. We often discuss here how crappy the school lunches are here in the Crowley school district here in Texas. They should be ashamed of themselves for the garbage they serve. In m opinion, it’s like eating out of a giant vending machine. Of course I’m sure they’d defend themselves just like those in the Jamie Oliver special. And I’m likewise sure it meets some government dietary standard, which of course is part of the problem.

    It’s amazing how the status quo canbe defended, even when it’s obvious that it’s an abject failure.

  13. zach on April 1, 2010 at 09:39

    This post says it all very succinctly:

    They want central control over everything, including what type of food you buy and from whom.

  14. Thomas on March 31, 2010 at 19:42

    This country sucks because many people decide to eat crap? And feed their kids crap (or allow their kids to eat crappy school lunches)? I guess France is a great country then? Americans can eat whatever the hell they want-let em’ eat crap, or good food if they so choose. There is more to life than food culture, and it doesn’t ultimately define a country in my humble opinion. I would love to see everyone eating better, but they don’t, and never will. It doesn’t define a country.

    • JOJO50 on March 31, 2010 at 20:00

      No, food isn’t the only thing that defines a country – how about corrupt politicians and huge corporate power? It is kind of hard for many people to know what good food is when their government pushes the food pyramid as healthy.

      • Thomas on March 31, 2010 at 20:29

        You think people really listen to the government when it comes to their eating practices?

      • JOJO50 on March 31, 2010 at 20:42

        Why would everyone and their grandmother be eating high-carb/low-fat if the government’s advice didn’t sink in at some level?

      • Bonnie on April 1, 2010 at 08:55

        Because that’s what for sale everywhere, what’s cheap and takes no prep, and sweet tastes good because that’s what people are raised on.

        Most people I know don’t give a crap about their health or diet. They eat some meat and cheese, but mainly sugar, more sugar, flour, and vegetable oil. The low-fat dieters who do care about their health and are trying to improve it eat the same, but usually with a bit less sugar.

      • Sonagi on April 2, 2010 at 16:12

        Processed food is cheap in part because of agricultural subsidies for corn, wheat, and soy, most of which are used to fatten feedlot animals.

        Federal funding of school lunch programs and restrictions on WIC food items are other ways the government uses money to promote unhealthy eating. Until a few years ago, WIC did not cover the purchase of fresh produce, and now the maximum allowance is $6 per month. What does WIC cover? Packaged milk, cheese, beans, fruit juice, and dozens of branded cereal.

      • Lisa C on April 3, 2010 at 05:56

        I guess it depends on a number of factors regarding how much the WIC allotment is for fresh produce. I work in a grocery store and deal with the WIC vouchers all the time. $6 is not the limit. Though the WIC participants are allowed fruit juice, cereal, etc., I thought it was a step in the right direction that they started allowing fresh produce. Before that *all* they could get was the processed, packaged crap. Mind you, I do want to shake my head when I see the WIC peeps buying some of the things they do, but it’s none of my business while on the clock.

      • JOJO50 on March 31, 2010 at 21:20

        I realize most people don’t obsess with food choices. However, potato chips do taste good, but that doesn’t explain the popularity of low fat mayonnaise, low fat sour cream and low fat salad dressings, nor the whole grain craze, or the little “heart healthy” symbols on the over prices boxes of cereals. Why do people prefer those products?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 20:32

      “I guess France is a great country then?”

      Culturally, familiarly? They have us beat by a million miles. I lived there, for two years, as an adult in my 30s working with them side by side, eating with them 2-3 meals per day. They rock in terms of familial culture, including food, nourishment, and eating as a family. We are nowhere close anymore. We are laughing stock by comparison. Laughing. Stock. Embarrassing. Hang. Head. In. Shame. Poor. We’re shit. It’s a fact. But you’re just ignorant, so you get a poor-ass pass.

      In terms of familial culture, any day. America is a poor step child.

      In terms of entrepreneurial, can-do spirit? America kicks there ass over an over, and I used to love to make the point with my French friends.

      Would that we could just combine the two.

      • Thomas on March 31, 2010 at 20:40

        I can’t really argue with that so I wont. We’ll have to settle with family or ethnic (food/everything) culture in this country-it certainly wont be a national one. Too big a melting pot and too much confusion and, yes, corporate interests. Money rules the world.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 21:21


        I may have been a but crude to you in that response. Given the reasonable tome or your reply I fear I may have unfairly musgudged your original and if so I apologize.

      • Sonagi on April 2, 2010 at 16:21

        France isn’t the only country with a food culture we could learn from. I spent more than a decade in East Asia. CSAs originated in Japan, reflecting a strong preference for locally grown food and a respect for local farmers. Restaurant menus and supermarket produce sections showcase what is in season. Ordinary restaurants prepare many dishes from scratch using fresh or frozen raw ingredients. I miss walking into a Chinese restaurant, pointing to the meat, seafood, and vegetable ingredients on display and telling the cook how I want them prepared. I miss the little shops on the ground floor of large apartment buildings in Japan, Korea, and China, where residents could pick up fresh produce and other food items for the evening meal.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 2, 2010 at 16:27

        I lived in Japan for five years prior to going to France for two.

        I lived on the beach in a little town called Hayama and had a fresh vegetable stand and a sushi bar within 100 years of my place, year round. The quality was always superb.

    • chris on March 31, 2010 at 21:46

      What many do not appreciate Thomas is that when the taxpayer foots the bill then the taxpayer has a say in how the recipient behaves.

      Consider health care. The more universal/federal health care becomes the less individual freedom you have. So unfortunately if I’m footing the bill then I do have a right to tell you not to “eat crap”. If I were not connected to your poor decision-making (in this case via health care and the requisite taxes) then I would not have any right whatsoever to knock that twinkie out of your hand.

      Think about how the federal government (via our taxes, our money) ultimately foots the bill for people’s poor decisions. This marginalizes the liberty of all involved. Without my money you are more free. With more of my own money I am more free.

      • Thomas on March 31, 2010 at 22:23

        Your never going to be able to mandate “healthy eating” when no one can agree on what that is (not talking about the people here, of course). It would be like trying to make people exercise (but what kind?)-not a chance. With the way we’ll be paying for everyone else’s health care through higher taxes, it isn’t fair-but that’s life. From a perspective of fairness, It would be better if the government stayed out of the whole thing and let people fend for themselves. I think there is probably some good middle ground somewhere but that doesn’t score political points or energize bases so it will probably never happen.

      • chris on April 1, 2010 at 08:55

        The government does indeed mandate all manner of behavior/procedure both directly and indirectly (via subsidies, prohibitions, recommendations, etc.).

        If school lunches “improve” they will most certainly include an emphasis on “healthy” whole grains, vegetable oils, fruit juices and low-fat everything (think sugary non-fat yogurt!); so your point about universal “healthy eating” is well taken.

        I’m not advocating that people should be left to “fend for themselves”. Local communities made up of families and individuals who care deeply about their neighbors and neighborhoods are quite capable of self-governing, including the moral and academic training of their young.

        I believe strongly that contemporary American political thinking fosters a culture of dependance. The more dependent one is, the less free s/he is. (Ironically the American political-left, as opposed to classic liberalism, consistently associates itself with “more freedom”, yet their systems actually marginalize liberty.)

        “Life’s not fair” isn’t a very meaningful response for most any discussion.


      • Thomas on April 1, 2010 at 09:49

        ““Life’s not fair” isn’t a very meaningful response for most any discussion.”

        Maybe, but it’s still not fair.

    • Dana on April 7, 2010 at 19:17

      You think food doesn’t define a people? You seriously need to read Weston Price.

      Here, I’ll make it easy for you.

      All I need to know is I’m saner and think better when I’m eating well. When I was living on less than a thousand dollars a month in a crap neighborhood with a carb-heavy vegan diet and a WIC voucher, I was crazy and I drove off all my friends. It is night and day.

      (This, by the way, is why I get real angry when I see Paleos and LCers suggest giving verboten carb food to food pantries. NO, NO, a thousand times NO.)

      Maybe you already get the good food and have gotten it all your life and you don’t know the difference. Lucky you.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 7, 2010 at 20:50

        “This, by the way, is why I get real angry when I see Paleos and LCers suggest giving verboten carb food to food pantries. NO, NO, a thousand times NO.”

        Yep, give cans of tuna or chicken or something.

  15. Jeanie on March 31, 2010 at 19:48

    My friend, who used to work at the local elementary school, said that the kids would load their plates with croutons from the salad bar, then smother them with ranch dressing. No lettuce, no vegetables, and the lunch ladies just look the other way. Disgusting! My own kids brought lunch from home. Much more control that way, but who knows what happens when they get to school.

  16. Bill J. on March 31, 2010 at 20:19

    Does one actually have to have raised children to know that feeding them crap is bad for them?

    The problem with school lunches is a cultural one, so it seems appropriate to label it an American problem. The Standard American Diet is also, by definition, an American problem.

    Step outside the USA sometime and see the difference.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 20:43


      I deleted the idiot’s comment anyway. I’m just not going to put up with that, because if I have to, then it’s going to be f-bombs and other invective in response. Better I delete and move on.

      Cloistered, ignorant flag wavers. They are so cute & funny. They speak only English, have never stepped across the border except maybe to Mexico or Canada, and they get oh-so defensive if America is questioned as not being The Greatest Country Ever On The Face Of The Earth.

      It was great, the greatest indeed and there’s no question about that. It _was_ the best. That’s history. Now it’s pretty much a miserable heap of socialist shit going downhill as fast as a rocket sled will take it.

      But hey, there’s always the next masturbatory election! There’s that.

      • Bill J. on March 31, 2010 at 20:59

        Roger that. I like how you run this place.

      • Dana on April 7, 2010 at 19:20

        France is socialist too. You seem to like France.

        We don’t do socialism here. We never have. In fact someone wrote a book called It Didn’t Happen Here about that very subject. I mean to read it but it’s hard to get into. I’d be curious to know what happened. Nearly every First World nation with a European background has adopted some degree of it, but we haven’t.

        What’s really funny to me are the Christians getting het up about it–seems to me Jesus once said something about giving your surplus coat, cloak, and meat to your Christian brother who has none. People never seem to get around to reading that verse. (Think it’s in Luke.)

      • Tom Naughton on April 7, 2010 at 19:33

        Dana, I’m not a Christian (raised Catholic), but Jesus never called for the state to compel people to give away their surplus coats. Initiating force or the threat of force to compel someone to give away a coat is very un-Christian by any definition of Christianity.

        Charity isn’t charity if it isn’t voluntary, and it’s been shown that self-identified religious conservatives give more to charity than self-identified big-government liberals. The disagreement isn’t about giving, it’s about government compulsion.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 7, 2010 at 20:55


        America is a socialist country. That’s simply a fact and anyone who doesn’t recognize it is simply in denial, or ignorant. Don’t know which you care to be. It has been predominantly socialist for decades, principally since the “fix” for the G depression.

        France, too. But I lived there, and it charms me. But America should know better.

  17. Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 20:20

    By the way.

    I delete stupid comments without a second thought. You want to make an argument, make it. You want to be gratuitously snarky? The delete button is only a click away and I’m using it more and more with some of you assholes.

  18. James on March 31, 2010 at 20:27

    Funny. Via a semantics technicality, you get to call them “government” schools. I used to be a teacher and I HAD to turn the TV on to Channel One at 9:00 a.m. every morning. Looks to me like the majority CORPORATE needs being served…
    Here are some commercials shown on the nation’s school’s “Channel One” (required viewing in public schools)…
    There are trans-national corporations in control of the USDA and they are purposefully poisoning the food fed to children. This issue is of importance, even to libertarians because A CRIME IS BEING COMMITTED.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 20:59

      No James. They follow pocket book, ease, and taste buds.

      That’s why the Agra-cop-juggernaught is so pernicious.

      But government is at the very root of it, as always.

      • Thomas on March 31, 2010 at 22:13

        Yes-big business takes advantage of people and their ignorance and the government helps them do and profits from it and then acts like they’re our friends. It totally sucks but, unfortunately that is the world we live in-all the reason to try and stay educated and informed. Those who don’t get totally stepped on-and they usually don”t even know it. It would be better if they (government) weren’t even involved-they’re like the best friend who is sleeping with your wife.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 21:01

      Oops, reply meant for Thomas, not James. Will fix later.

  19. AJ Wilder on March 31, 2010 at 20:39

    I’m a junior in high school, and I refuse to eat the crap they serve for lunch. Greasy pizza, popcorn chicken, burritos, chicken burgers, hamburgers, and more to make me want to puke. I absolutely hate knowing that my friends consume that garbage on a daily basis and enjoy it. I’ve tried to educate them, but they’ve been thoroughly brainwashed by the CW bull.

    Unfortunately, it’s not just the lunches that are bad. Whenever they reward you for doing something (i.e. a choir performance, band concert, musical, athletic activity, etc.), it’s always with even more garbage. Doughtnuts, more pizza, cookies, candy, HFCS soda. It’s rediculous. Though, the effect of dropping a dozen doughtnuts in the middle of a room full of ravenous carbavores is quite interesting to observe and often makes me giggle on the inside.

    I’ve been following the Paleo lifestyle with my mom for several months now, so I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t even get hungry until 4p.m., when I get home, so I don’t eat lunch. It’s wonderful. And I get the added bonus of being fairly amused when my classmates are starving during class and I know why. I really love how my school is *trying* (and failing miserably) to enforce a “no food during class” rule on the carbaholic populace, it’s really quite funny.

    For the record, how can a nation even claim to be “great” when education standards are abysmal and food standards are even worse? That’s right. It can’t.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 21:06


      First & foremost, give your mom a big smacking kiss for me, wouldja?

      And that should about do it. It’s enough.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2010 at 21:08

      Oh, and not to overshadow your insightfulness, AJ.

      I’m impressed. I’d love to have real hope, but I fear you’re a serious outlier and not a sign of a real awakening, sadly.

      • AJ Wilder on March 31, 2010 at 21:39

        Oh, I know for a fact I’m an outlier. Everyone my age literally is addicted to the SAD. One of my friends has/had a thyroid problem (she’s 4′ 9″, 85 lbs, and 18 years old). She eats nothing but carbs and the minute amout of meat her mother forces upon her. Anyhow, I tried to enlighten her, saying a simple (read: drastic) diet change could have, at the very least, positively influence her condition. Yeah, she wasn’t too happy with me, saying her doctor “cured” it with medication. Yeah. Right. Why do something healthy when a little pill can “cure” it?

        I’ve gotten into quite a few arguments (and had a “I hope you enjoy your kidney disease” thrown in my direction) over the topic of the unhealthy nature of refined carbs, wheat in particular, with my robotics fellows. Honestly, instead of condemning me, they should be thanking me for caring about their well-being enough to even bother fighting tooth and claw with them over the issue. I probably shouldn’t have bothered in the first place (since I don’t bother anymore).

        By the way, thanks for this great website, and the chance to speak out. :)

  20. luc on March 31, 2010 at 20:41

    Not only the food in public schools in the US tends to be quite daunting. Somehow people seem to have the idea that schools should be primarily cheap. Just looking at the buildings of most high schools here in the US makes me cringe – most look like temporary barracks. How do you want to convince qualified people that their rather low paying teacher jobs are valued by the community? By sticking them and the kids into fragile barracks. The school food just fits into the general picture.
    Having grown up in Europe, I am actually a bit scared about my kids future school experiences.

    • Sean on April 1, 2010 at 11:51

      Actually, the average teaching salary is quite decent considering they get a three month vacation and finish at 3. My whole family are teachers, but my Dad could only teach at the college level because he ‘just’ had a masters in mathematics and a BS in civil engineering. The huge barrier to entry is the massive amount of education classes required to teach at the high school level and below. Ask anyone who has had to go through it and they will tell you education classes are total bullshit. I know a lot of highly qualified people in the maths and sciences wh0 would love to move to education, they just don’t have the time or inclination to take all these b.s. education classes. I was in honors math in high school (when mathematics was a recent invention) and our geometry/algebra II teacher hadn’t even had calculus. This shocks me now. In fact the calculus teacher eventually was ‘fired’ because he refused to take a reading qualifier class, just a three day seminar, “are the English teachers required to take a mathematics qualifier class?”

      People bemoan the lack of qualified math and science teachers, rightly so, but this isn’t because of salaries. Admittedly classrooms that look like barracks don’t help but that, along with salaries, is not what is keeping qualified people out of the field. Hell, if I were to ever move back to the States, I wouldn’t mind teaching, but despite all my math and physics, I’m simply not qualified. I don’t think this only applies to math and science, it is merely a lot more obvious in these fields.

      While Europe may have nicer school buildings (they have nicer buildings in general) I’m not at all impressed with their school systems. As in the States, students more often than not are educated in spite of the system.

      (sorry to go off topic)

      • Laurie on April 1, 2010 at 16:18

        The “massive amount of education classes?” I had to take 15 credits in education classes beyond my B.S. degree in Biology, so I wouldn’t call that massive. I also have a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction (the dreaded education degree) and an additional 36 grad credits in science-related areas such as Microbiology, Evolution, Environmental Science and Infection & Immunity, but I took those for pay raises and to keep current in science. I am also the department chair for 14 science teachers and I get a whopping $78,000 after 23 years of teaching. Woohoo. In the meantime, I teach 150 students in Anatomy/Physiology and Biology that come to school malnourished on junk, taught by parents that they are entitled to the world, and not willing to put forth an iota of effort to learn. If they don’t learn it is our fault, never their own. I do a disservice to the 10% of kids who do want to learn and make the most of what they can get from school. The elephant in the room is not public education, folks. If a kid comes from a supportive home and is prepared and expected to learn, they do very well.

        Ugh, why do I bother? I love to teach and I love science – that’s why I do it. There is an art to teaching -most don’t have it and leave quickly. People need to stop blaming teachers and start looking at the ivory tower noodleheads who come up with the next big program (No Child Left Behind, Rise to the Top…) with ridiculous hoops to jump through and also take a look at the raw material with which we are presented. I think every person should have to spend mandatory teaching time in a high school for at least 6 months. Maybe then they would stop whining. Sorry, Richard, to hijack the post – I get so sick of people who have no clue about what really goes on in schools constantly whining about how great teachers have it.

      • Sean on April 2, 2010 at 04:10

        I never said teachers had it so great, I know this is not the case. Nor did I say they were to blame. But I don’t think the problem is ‘underpaid teachers’. $100,000/yr annualized with full benefits is pretty decent in my opinion. Artificial barriers to entry such as b.s. education classes (in New Mexico it is 24-27 hours keep out qualified math and science teachers. All the shit that teachers have to put up with is something else that lowers the demand and hence the supply of quality teachers. I’ve known extremely qualified people who left the profession in disgust, and it wasn’t because of the salary.

        There a tons of problems with public education, but the elephant in the room *is* public education. The big programs are stupid, of course, but the real problem is not the amount of resources that public education receives, but how badly they are allocated. The Albuquerque Public Schools (APS), for example spends 1/3 of their budget on special education. The spec-ed teachers have very small classrooms and are more often than not, overpaid babysitters. So the ‘average’ class size might officially be 15, but normal classes are 25 or 30 students.

        I taught electronics at a Native American technical school, SIPI, and it was a hideous waste of money, it wasn’t just bloated, it was an appalling, counterproductive hemorrhaging of tax dollars. How could it not be? It was run by the Federal Government (BIA).

        If holding such opinions makes me “clueless” and “whining” then so be it.

      • Laurie on April 2, 2010 at 05:29

        Salaries are determined by local governments, usually county or township, so there is a lot of variability in pay from place to place. I don’t work 9 months. Our regular year is 10 months plus I often work several weeks during the summer. My husband works in the private sector and he also gets 8 weeks vacation. He just doesn’t take it all at once.

        A person could be tops in their field, but that does not mean they will be a good teacher. I have seen several come in thinking that they are going to change the world and make every student care about math or science or whatever subject they are knowledgeable about and then leave after one year of total failure in the classroom. If you don’t love the profession of teaching and you don’t love kids, you won’t last. I agree the education classes are not useful. They are an attempt by the ivory towerists to create good teachers based on their “research.” I’ve seen new teachers improve with a good mentor teacher by their side, but it is very difficult to teach someone how to work with students productively if they just don’t have the personality for the job.

        You are absolutely right about special education. Things went rapidly downhill when special education students were “mainstreamed.” I am not against putting spec. ed. students in a regular education setting, but it has not been done properly. Oh, and don’t forget about the millions of parents that refuse to see that their child has a drug problem or is lazy or is malnourished or maybe just doesn’t have an academic mindset and prefers to have them labeled as ADD or ADHD or bipolar or whatever. Since the feds provide money for spec. ed., this just feeds the system and it expands and expands every year. You will find few teachers who don’t agree with you about that.

        I could go on, but what’s the point? Send your kids to school well-fed and with a good attitude and they will be just fine. My point is that much of the problem starts at home and I think that might actually get us back to Richard’s point in this post.

      • Sean on April 2, 2010 at 08:08

        They would probably be fine where you teach but I was pretty severely under-challenged in high school. The only difficult subject was honors math, and the two excellent teachers I had left either while I was attending or soon after.

        I tend to see everything through a classical liberal lens (I also have a minor in economics which probably set me on the path to becoming a libertarian). So I see problems with high schoolers being a captive audience. How about instead of forcing kids to go to school we rollback the compulsory age to 15 and make education the privilege it actually is? If kids (and their parents) can’t be bothered then flunk them out. A high school degree has become devalued because teachers spend so much time dealing with discipline and apathy, and the fact that anyone who just hangs must graduate. I’m not a huge fan of the two-tiered European system but it does split up the motivated college oriented kids from the ‘too cool for school’ kids.

        “A person could be tops in their field, but that does not mean they will be a good teacher.”

        The best teachers teach one to think. There are surprisingly many teachers in the US who manage to do this. Here in the Czech Republic students score quite well on rote subjects, ‘math’ and ‘sciences’, actually arithmetic and memorization. I’m not impressed.

        I’m a big fan of Roger Penrose, intelligence is not simply a complicated algorithm, and great teachers are not executing some algorithm, because there is no algorithm, like, duh. Rote learning is an algorithm of course, and is necessary, but should never be confused with knowledge or insight.

      • Suzanne on April 3, 2010 at 09:38

        I’m sorry to hear this about APS–I’m a product of that school system, but from 30 years ago. Times have changed a lot since then — especially with the increase in Spec. Ed. For the last 6 years I’ve taught at an elementary school in southern AZ that has a large spec. ed. population along with a very large, low socio-economic regular population. (The school is the largest elementary in our district; larger than some middle schools.)

        Due to all of the court cases and legislation that has happened since the mid 1970’s, spec. ed. has plenty of funding. The spec. ed. classrooms all have a lead teacher plus multiple aides. Some days the student/adult ratio is 1:1. They take several field trips during the year. And while some of these kids will be able to function on a semi-independent basis when they grow up, probably about half of our students are so severely disabled that they will need to be in the equivalent of a nursing home situation for the rest of their lives.

        And the rest of our students? Our principal has tried her best to keep class sizes at a reasonable number in spite of state budget cuts and stupidity from our local district. However, it’s almost a bare-bones curriculum this year: reading, writing, math; some science, a little social studies, and music 2x a week for 10 weeks. Next year, if we don’t get enough Title 1 $, music (namely me) is gone and class sizes go up as we lose a teacher at most grade levels. Forget about PE. Forget about field trips for these kids, many of whom have limited experience outside of their impoverished neighborhoods.

        I do not advocate going back to the treatment of the special needs kids the way it was in the 50’s and 60’s. Furthermore, many kids (my older daughter included) often have minor needs that greatly benefit from a little “tweak”. I just get frustrated that so much money seems to be allocted to spec. ed. when regular ed. is suffering.

        (And don’t even get me started on our school lunches — I’ve been making a hobby of checking out the trays that go by to one of our spec. ed rooms — more often than not, it’s beige, beige, and beige.)

      • Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2010 at 16:34

        “People need to stop blaming teachers and start looking at the ivory tower noodleheads who come up with the next big program.”

        Well, Laurie, are you aware I’m married to a school teacher? I should tell you that I soon found out after meeting her that the problem was most definitely not with the teachers she knew and whom we did things together with. These people were passionate & serious, just like in any profession where you find people who love what they’re doing.

        A few years ago my wife moved from teaching to counseling in JH. I wrote this up as a tribute.

        I did a week of Junior Achievement in her classroom, about entrepreneurship and here’s an old post about my experience and some of the letters & notes I got from the kids.

        Loved your post hijacking comment. :)

      • Laurie on April 1, 2010 at 17:16

        What a nice tribute to your wife! In your post, you mentioned that she tried to go about her business of teaching, ignoring the nonsense around her. That’s what many of us try to do everyday – we teach, we deal with the multitude of influences that prevent our kids from being able to learn (you name it, I’ve seen it all), and we try to ignore the crap that comes from above day in and day out. This week I got to hear how our pay will be cut 2%, in addition to losing a teacher from my department because of budget cuts which will add to the rest of the department’s teaching loads, and that we will all be expected to spend several days this summer learning the next best program to come down the pike since sliced bread (and we all know how good bread is for you). On the other hand, I definitely spent some time in Anatomy this year teaching kids about bread and other toxic foodstuffs., and perhaps injecting just a bit of my libertarian leanings in their heads to balance them out a bit and teach them to THINK! Undermining the system, one mind at a time :)

      • Sonagi on April 3, 2010 at 17:14

        Finish at 3? Only if you have no meetings after school and either put inadequate time into lesson planning and paper marking or take the work home with you. I arrive at 7ish every morning and rarely leave before 4, often spending time at home in the evenings making interactive whiteboard or cardstock activities for upcoming lessons. High school teachers in my district get two planning blocks a day, but elementary get only one.

  21. Chris on March 31, 2010 at 23:39

    Jamie Oliver definitely has his heart in the right place. He got quite a lot of abuse in the UK when he persuaded the government to spend more money on school lunches – but most of that was from our British equivalent dross of society – several mothers were selling crisps and candy through the school gates to children in defiance. Unbelievable. And he seems to be getting quite a lot of stick in the US too for his current efforts. He’s one of those guys who does actually challenge CW and tries to do something about it, so I doff my hat to him. He’s done other things like trying to teach whole towns how to cook via a pass-it-on system, and a big campaign to switch chicken farming away from battery farms to more natural methods. He does get some things wrong, but he at least tries.

    My oldest child is 3.5 and starting school in September this year. I noticed from an early age that he eats a paleo (plus dairy) diet naturally if presented with a range of options (except chocolate, his weak spot!) Surprised me. And he is lean and extremely healthy. So he’ll be going off to school with a nice brown bag full of paleo goodies…

  22. peterlepaysan on March 31, 2010 at 23:40

    Government, regardless of type or size, is always about distribution of power and wealth.

    Since when do kids matter in that context?

    Since when has the health of the general populace mattered in that context?

    The corporates and governments will always connive to retain power and wealth.

    The rest of us do not matter.

  23. Gabriella Kadar on April 1, 2010 at 04:16

    Last year I finally got around to reading Mark Kurlansky’s book “The Big Oyster” about the New York city and the oyster industry and consumption. Any poor schmuck could eat a few oysters a day because of how cheap they were. Meantime oysters are powerhouses of nutrition for human beings. They are the best dietary source of zinc and this mineral is crucial for, among many things, brain function. Malnourished children cannot concentrate at school and have learning disabilities partly due to zinc deficiency.

    So I was reading this book at a leisurely pace realizing that the great creativity of the American people during previous centuries had a great deal to do with consumption of high quality nutrients. This did not only include shellfish but other sources of protein as well. The Statue of Liberty sign reflects exactly that so many immigrants to the ‘new world’ came from places of famine, starvation and malnutrition Their offspring grew up in a new environment where they could realize their potentials in every way.

    Then came the popcorn and the microwave popcorn and the popcorn button on microwaves and all the rest of the crap. I use popcorn as a metaphor.

    In India there are castes which delineate and separate groups of people. In the United States it is diet. What percentage of educated upper middle class are obese compared to the rest of the population? Class distinctions appear to be based on diet and the consequences of that diet. Food is cheap in North America. Time is expensive. People don’t sleep and people don’t spend time caring for themselves and their families. As you say Mr. Nikolay, in France eating meals is a family oriented event and not something people buy at drive through windows and consume in their cars. But the French are not uncomfortable with not climbing the ‘ladder of success’. They are not working themselves to death.

    Right now I’m sitting at my living room window 9 storeys up watching the twinkling lights of the never-ending snake of traffic heading towards downtown on the Don Valley Parkway. I’m far enough away from it that I hear a dull roar of tires and the snake twinkles through the trees about a kilometer away. But it’s there and it’s 7:00 a.m. What about the families of these commuters? Their children?

    The parents ‘must’ buy a house because it is social pressure. Small houses in the city start at $450,000. The fact that because they buy a house an hour away from their jobs is not a consideration. The fact that they have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. and get their kids to a babysitter by 6:30 a.m. so they can get on the road to get to work on time is apparently worth the sacrifice. It never was for me but I don’t give a damn.

    We are observing the consequences of a ‘consumer’ society…. we are not ‘people’ we are ‘consumers’ so it can’t surprise anyone that so many ‘consumers’ consume too much.

    Who should we beat with that truncheon?

    • Pharm on April 1, 2010 at 05:54

      This is how modern slavery works….Sell the amercian dream, and lock them in. Guess who wins….

    • Hillary on April 1, 2010 at 11:50

      I recall once reading that zinc deficiency causes acne and depression. My guess would that adolescents going through puberty probably require more zinc than adults and children. My theory is that teenagers have bad skin and are “moody” mainly because they desperately need more zinc.

      Isn’t zinc critical for healthy sperm production? I would also wager that teenage boys are seriously deficient in zinc at a time when they need it the most. Probably one good helping of a seafood stew once a week would make boys stronger, healthier, and happier.

  24. Jim on April 1, 2010 at 05:53

    ::ducks for cover::

    Man, you are PISSED.

    Can’t blame you though – well said!!

  25. pecanmike on April 1, 2010 at 06:14

    The schools are just a reflection of the idiocracy. I have twin 5th grade girls and recently went to a father/daughter campfire dinner where you brought your own food. It was revolting what these girls, with their dads, brought to eat. Some of these girls were like little obese meth fiends devouring one bag of shit after another. They were fifty+ pounds overweight at 11 and their “fathers” were enabling them. I truly felt like physically restraining these little girls.

    I am 47 and when I was that age the fat kids caught all kinds of shit on the playground. Now, it is pretty much normal. Lazy and stupid is becoming the American way.

    • Dana on April 7, 2010 at 19:29

      Are you actually arguing that it’s a good idea to give fat kids a load of shit when they can’t control what their parents make available to them at home? (Or what the school makes available to them in the cafeteria, for that matter?)

      This is personal to me. I didn’t have a weight problem as a child, but ever since my ex-in-laws got custody of my son (long story, I know everyone says they don’t deserve to lose custody, yawn, but I really didn’t–poverty sucks), the FIRST YEAR they had him he started putting on excess weight, and now I’m really worried he’ll be diabetic by the time he’s an adult. He’s fourteen and huge. The grandparents and I haven’t spoken in over a year but I remember them complaining that he never wanted anything but chicken nuggets. Excuse me? Tell me I’m a bad mom and then not bother standing up to him when he won’t eat the good stuff? Who are the parents here?

      They should have kept him on the multivitamin I had him on when the shit hit the fan, they should have dictated what he had for meals and they should have kept his ass AWAY from McDonald’s when it became obvious he was getting addicted. Once in a great while as a treat is one thing. It’s not a food group though.

      And none of it is his fault regardless of his preferences. Know why I never got fat as a kid? I was finicky as hell. My parents wouldn’t listen to that crap. Other than a few very minor concessions, like not making me eat onions and peppers because my dad didn’t like them either, I was made to taste every new food, and I was given stuff I really hated every now and again, like liver. I really think that’s the only reason I grew up halfway normal at all, despite the low-fat trend that began early in my childhood (I was born in ’74).

      I hate to think kids are giving my son shit because his grandparents are lazy assholes who can’t be bothered to do the job they said I wasn’t doing.

      I hope to be able to help him undo the damage. They adopted him when he was four, I’ve had no rights at all. It is maddening.

  26. AJP on April 1, 2010 at 07:11

    This nutritional train wreck is a perfect example of what happens when you let so called experts from academia make public policy.
    This stuff works fine in the make believe world called University, not so much in reality.

  27. Joseph on April 1, 2010 at 07:13

    This just breaks my heart. Makes me want to move to Switzerland. Maybe I can settle for some out of the way place in Colorado, or northern Canada, since the Swiss don’t have an easy door open to dumb Americans. Why are Americans so indifferent to the stuff that makes life fun? Why are we in love with being slaves? Why do we prefer whining to working, working to playing, useless work (that creates “profits”) to the productive kind (that builds lives)? Why can’t we turn off the system for a minute, think about where we came from, and reboot? What happened to the old America? It is one thing to realize abstractly that nothing lasts forever; it is another entirely to see the principle played out in gory detail before your eyes every time you step outside. When I think of where this country began and see what it has become, I feel physically ill.

    • Thomas on April 1, 2010 at 07:32

      Cheer up man-there are plenty of good things to focus on out there. Plus, don’t use the word “we” as an all inclusive, as I doubt you include yourself among the “slaves” (as I don’t). We need to focus on family and group cultures-not national ones. I don’t think this country was really set up for a national culture, where we all agree and take part. As long as we are free to have our own culture, which I do, I’ll try to keep positive and happy. You should too.

  28. KD on April 1, 2010 at 07:14

    Hi Richard: Bang on!

    When my daughter started elementary school a few years ago, I was eager to provide her with lunch money to buy a hot lunch in the cafeteria. I thought it’s got to be better than sandwiches… Well, I still have not seen the food they serve, so I can’t say, but at some point after one year of enjoying the pizza, lasagna or chocolate milk, she started asking that I make her lunches instead. This all happened in line with me learning more about food and changing our diet at home as well. She likes my home-made soups, and complains bitterly about the canned salty stuff they serve at school.

    She’s a smart kid. We talk about food and nutrition at the supper table, and she’s learning. Only home-made lunches for the past 3 years. However, this year (grade 5) brought a challenge I was unprepared for: “nutrition education” … where my smart daughter contradicted the teacher who was telling everyone to eat as little fat as possible and as much whole grain as possible. She told him fat is good for us. To which he conceded, that yes, we need *some* fat, but in minute quantities.

    When the kids, in groups, were asked to come up with a healthy meal suggestion, and her friends were busy outlining the ingredients of a salad, and my smart kid suggested adding bacon bits — real, crumbled bits of bacon, everyone, teacher included told her bacon is NOT good for you. It’s not a healthy food. Now, I might agree that some of what is added to commercial bacon is to be avoided, but I’m fairly sure they were talking about the fat and salt content.

    So I’ve told her she may need to learn the food guidelines to be able to pass this segment of the class and not get into to too much trouble, but I told her, learn them and the use it as a reference for what NOT to eat. But I’m proud of her for disagreeing and saying what she knows from what I’ve taught her…. and I’m thinking a letter to the teacher with some choice links may be in order. But unfortunately, I’m sure even his hands are tied. This is government curriculum, after all.


    • James on April 1, 2010 at 10:29

      No offense, but bacon is a neolithic food and by far the smartest choice for adding fat/protein to a salad.
      Unless you can get it free of nitrites AND excess salt.

      • James on April 1, 2010 at 10:30

        I meant “No offense, but bacon is a neolithic food and FAR FROM the smartest choice…”
        I need an edit feature, Richard.

      • KD on April 6, 2010 at 12:18

        Dude, not all bacon is maple leaf.

      • Theresa on April 6, 2010 at 13:48

      • James on April 6, 2010 at 14:15

        Yea, I read it. Strong on appeals to authority and short on scientific evidence.
        Here, read this, it’s more factual and less agenda driven…

        Bacon is a neolithic food.

      • Dana on April 7, 2010 at 19:32

        It’s still better than Bac-Os.

  29. Ann on April 1, 2010 at 07:18

    Uh, I have the same battles here (military overseas) and is perhaps the worst with this poulation. I had my 2 year old in daycare when I went to pick her up one day they were giving them MARSHMALLOWS & SUGAR CEREAL as a ‘snack’ (can’t bring in food from home). When I said something to them they were like “So?” and then when I pressed them about it the only thing they could think of that was wrong with that was the mini marshmallows were a choking hazard. Seriously. Most of the military are addicted to SAD. The other funny story: Went to a farmer’s market and while I was talking to the lady she was surprised that I was american and willing to buy her free range eggs (organic but not registered). I asked her why that was and she said he wouldn’t buy them because they weren’t stamped. Really.

  30. JLB on April 1, 2010 at 07:56

    Change starts at home.

  31. Amy on April 1, 2010 at 08:08

    Richard – Thanks for writing this. As a health counselor, I felt the passion and frustration that Jamie was feeling on Food Revolution last week (and what you seem to be feeling now). Honestly, when he broke down, I wanted to break down, too. The frustration is so unbearable sometimes. We’re trying to help children (and adults) live healthier, longer lives and we’re being ridiculed? WTF? To say that I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall when talking to some people is an understatement. I’ve been accused of depriving my 2 year old son because I don’t feed him hot dogs. Really, there have been heated debates over that and plots are being devised to feed him a hot dog behind my back. I’m totally not kidding.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for writing this no holds barred post. While some may not like the anti-America slant, your main point of taking better care of our children shines through.

    • James on April 1, 2010 at 08:32

      I didn’t see this rant as having an “anti-American slant”, but rather a very pro-American tough-love. America (U.S.A) needs to be grabbed and shaken by the lapels. Touchy-feely, you’re ok/I’m ok won’t cut it.
      If my son has dropped out of college because of a heroine addiction and he strolls into my house wearing a “World’s best Son” t-shirt and I call him out on it, it doesn’t mean I’m anti-him. It means I’m pro-him and just want him to wake. the fuck. UP.

      • Amy on April 1, 2010 at 08:39

        “Pro-American tough-love” is a better description. Thanks, James

  32. Steve on April 1, 2010 at 09:39

    I couldn’t agree more! It’s downright criminal what they feed to kids these days.

    You’re seething anger of this subject is apparent. Your words could only have been improved had you typed the post in all-caps.

  33. James on April 1, 2010 at 10:40

    I think this “20% Obesity Rate” is bullshit. I look around me and it’s much higher than 20%. 20% is fantasy land. 20% is early 1980’s. We’re at 35% or more, I’ll bet.

  34. maba on April 1, 2010 at 10:49

    A great and a heartfelt post, Richard.

  35. Manveer on April 1, 2010 at 11:32

    Great post Richard :]

    When I started getting money in high-school it was burgers and fries on a daily basis. I was thankful to get some more meat in my diet though, cause my mom rarely made anything with meat in it. Countries like India aren’t as bad as America, but they suck with food too. They have particular days we’re you’re not allowed to eat meat at all, cause some religious guy a thousand years ago apparently said so. And certain people like my grandmother who are “baptized” in their religion, aren’t allowed to eat meat at all, EVER ‘_’

  36. Tom Naughton on April 1, 2010 at 11:42

    Spot on, Richard. We pack a lunch for our daughter, but last week I joined her for lunch at her school and saw what was being served to the majority of kids who eat the cafeteria food: four chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, a roll, a tangerine and a drink … most kids had selected a juice box or chocolate milk. Big blobs of sugar and starch with a teensy bit of protein.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2010 at 12:37

      Hey Tom I dare you to send her to school with a load of roasted marrow bones! :)

      (…Yes, I’ve seen the video.)

      • Tom Naughton on April 2, 2010 at 18:47

        Hey, now you’ve got me thinking …

  37. Hillary on April 1, 2010 at 12:02

    When I was in elementary school nearly 20 years ago, we were served the EXACT same stuff at school. (my mom almost always packed my lunch though) We were not that fat. School lunches were the same crap food they are now, but only one or two kids was fat. School lunches are not good for children, but they are not the “cause” of childhood obesity. There has been a big shift in how people run their families even if the past 20 years.

    Now, you don’t just get chicken nuggets at school, you get them at home too. Kids are getting “school lunch” for all three meals a day, plus totally unnecessary “snacks.”

    I am a big believer that children do NOT need snacks. They need three meals a day. Period. Snacking is seriously killing our children.

    • Mallory on April 1, 2010 at 13:33

      that’s a really good point… i might add ALL of everything in my entire house was made from scratch growing up and we were only “allowed” to buy luinch once a week. the other 4 days, packed lunches and had the “embarrassing” thermos with leftovers haha

    • Sonagi on April 3, 2010 at 12:58

      School lunches at the elementary and middle school levels have not changed much since we went to school: a slab of meat, dollops of potatoes or rice and a canned vegetable, and a serving of fruit. What has changed are the introduction of ala carte to high school and the introduction of breakfast. Our school breakfasts, mostly consumed by those on free and reduced lunch, are worse than the lunches. The rotating menu of cereal and sweetened yogurt, pancakes, french toast sticks, sausage biscuits, and breakfast pizza is high in refined carbohydrates.

      You are correct, Hillary, that the trend towards processed foods heated in the microwave or oven over meals cooked from scratch and the increased snacking are probably more to blame for rising rates of obesity, especially since the snack foods I see most children and adults consuming are flavored crackers, chips, sweetened yogurt, and other processed junk. No wonder the kids just push food around on their plates at dinnertime.

  38. Mallory on April 1, 2010 at 13:26

    i gotta admit my high school cafeteria served absolute shit, and i ate it. at the time, nutrition had no part of my life… i remember some staples our lunch ladies served, and Lord almighty they were some nasty people

    – chicken nuggets, mashed potato(pearls)/gravy(powder), roll & corn day was everyones favorite(mono-color anyone??)
    – sugary fake fruit slushies with soft serve pretzels and a bowl of cheese sauce
    – bag of tortilla chips & cheese sauce
    – butter garlic cheese pizza floats (like huge garlic bread cheese pizza)
    – chicken patty & fries

    our cafeteria had no salad, ever…only veggie i recal in all my 4 years was tomato sauce in macaroni stuff and corn
    right- this was during the soda machine era too so we had those, and like 5 vending machines…

    the ironic thing:
    in the cafeteria there were 3 dance dance revolution machines to try and get the fat kids to dance off weight and exercise

  39. Ken Leebow on April 1, 2010 at 14:19

    Actually, this post is pretty much a banal diatribe. Everyone knows that the U.S. food system is a mess. Now, it’s up to people to decide if they want to be a part of it. It’s very easy to opt-out. Unfortunately, most people want to look at the negative and not how to get out of the mess.

    Ken Leebow

    • James on April 1, 2010 at 14:42

      “how to get out of this mess”

      Do tell!!

    • Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2010 at 14:57

      And what better way to respond to a banal post than with a banal comment?:)

      That’s OK, Ken. I know every post doesn’t energize all of the folks all the time.

      But I think most regular readers and paleo and LC adherents know that opting out is easy and it begins at home. Nothing new there either, but sometimes it pays to review.

      And to get pissed off!

    • Sonagi on April 3, 2010 at 13:03

      If I don’t like your ideas about how to get out of this mess, can I get my $8.95 plus SH back?

    • traderpaul on April 3, 2010 at 16:51

      I took a quick look at your site.
      I see that you think you are some sort of diet expert and that for the most part we common people must pay for your expertise.
      You do show a sample 7 day meal plan on your site and from a paleo/primal point of view it is an embarrassment.
      Veggie burgers? Egg whites (where did the yolks go?)? Fibre cereals?
      What a Conventional Wisdom mess. I’m surprised Richard didn’t delete your post as it is only a gratuitous drive-by spam posting.
      Do yourself a favour and take a look at the Free the Animal archives and discover what truly healthy food looks like.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 4, 2010 at 12:00

        Ken, I didn’t really pay any attention until just now.

        But anyone who recommends the _fraudulent_ China Study buy the super-fraud T. Colin Campbell and eating egg whites — as if an embryo would do better on embryonic fluid that the nutrition provided via the placenta, simply deserves to be ignored. And that Esselsteyn fuckhead?

        Leebow: get the fuck out of my place and stay out.

        BYW, you’re a fuckin’ moron, as is anyone in the world who fell for TCS.

        “Does the data match up?

        What is most shocking about the China Study is not what it found, but the contrast between Campbell’s representation of its findings in The China Study, and the data contained within the original monograph.

        Campbell summarizes the 8,000 statistically significant correlations found in the China Study in the following statement: “people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease.”26 He also claims that, although it is “somewhat difficult” to “show that animal-based food intake relates to overall cancer rates,” that nevertheless, “animal protein intake was convincingly associated in the China Study with the prevalence of cancer in families.”27

        Figure 1
        Associations of Selected Variables with Mortality for All Cancers in the China Study Total Protein +12%
        Animal Protein +3%
        Fish Protein +7%
        Plant Protein +12%
        Total Lipids -6%
        Carbohydrates +23%
        Total Calories +16%
        Fat % Calories -17%
        Fiber +21%
        Fat (questionnaire) -29%*
        * statistically significant ** highly significant *** very highly significant
        (Data taken from the original monograph of the China Study.)

        But the actual data from the original publication paints a different picture. Figure 1 shows selected correlations between macronutrients and cancer mortality. Most of them are not statistically significant, which means that the probability the correlation is due to chance is greater than five percent.

        It is interesting to see, however, the general picture that emerges. Sugar, soluble carbohydrates, and fiber all have correlations with cancer mortality about seven times the magnitude of that with animal protein, and total fat and fat as a percentage of calories were both negatively correlated with cancer mortality.

        The only statistically significant association between intake of a macronutrient and cancer mortality was a large protective effect of total oil and fat intake as measured on the questionnaire. As an interesting aside, there was a highly significant negative correlation between cancer mortality and home-made cigarettes!28 Campbell’s case for the association between animal foods and cancer within the China Study is embedded within an endnote. Campbell states: “Every single animal protein-related blood biomarker is significantly associated with the amount of cancer in a family.”29

        Following the associated endnote, these biomarkers were “plasma copper, urea nitrogen, estradiol, prolactin, testosterone, and, inversely, sex hormone binding globulin, each of which has been known to be associated with animal protein intake from previous studies.”30 Since Campbell does not cite these “previous studies,” the reader is left in the dark regarding the reliability of his assumptions. Blood biomarkers are generally associated with food intake patterns, rather than specific foods. Since food intake patterns differ in different populations, an association found between a biomarker in one population cannot necessarily be generalized to another.31

        For example, people who eat more whole grains in a given population might have higher levels of vitamin C, even though whole grains do not contain vitamin C. This would be true in one population where people who eat whole grains tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, but untrue in another population.

        In other words, if the mysterious “previous studies” that Campbell doesn’t cite were conducted in America, their data would be irrelevant to a study conducted in China, where food intake patterns could be very different.

        As we will see below, the China Study’s own data indicated that these were not reliable biomarkers. It isn’t at all clear why this roundabout and extremely unreliable way of measuring animal protein consumption is superior to the direct methods of the study, such as the food questionnaire and the dietary observations– especially when they directly contradict each other!

        Of the biomarkers measured, estradiol only had a statistically significant relationship with animal protein in women under 45,where the correlation was positive as is true for sex hormone-binding globulin, both of which had negative correlations in women aged 55-64.

        There was no statistically significant relationship between animal protein and testosterone in men of any age, which were negatively correlated in all age groups, nor in females except those aged 55-64, where the correlation was positive. Plasma prolactin was only statistically significantly related to animal protein consumption in the oldest group of females (positively) and was negatively correlated in other age groups.32

        Only urea nitrogen and copper were consistent and significant indicators of animal protein consumption, and of these two only copper was significantly related to cancer mortality. 33 It is difficult to see how Campbell can so emphatically draw the conclusion that animal foods are the cause of most diseases from this data.”

        And that’s merely one out of hundreds of frauds & misrepresentations.

      • Flying Burrito on April 5, 2010 at 17:06

        F*ckin’ A! Tell it like it is, Richard! Rockin’ post and thread…

      • Sonagi on April 4, 2010 at 13:42

        Amazing that somebody has the balls to peddle a CW low fat, low calorie diet that’s failed people for decades. A 130 calorie breakfast consisting of 1/2 cup cereal, 1/3 soy milk, and a handful of fruit? If that was my fuel load to get me through the morning, by 10 AM I’d be hallucinating that the faces of my 2nd graders were giant eggs fried in butter.

  40. Timothy on April 2, 2010 at 15:54

    Richard, thank you for this post and your brutally honest language. Our depraved food culture has been the biggest factor undermining my human potential throughout my life. Only this year, at age 33, did I finally wake up and realize what the hell had happened.

    Compulsory schools are abominable for many reasons; I already knew that from experience as well as theory. But little did I realize that the nutritional indoctrination was perhaps the worst crime, the taproot of the rest. Even while I deplored the obvious coercion, I was still eating their poison with gusto. At least I can now state confidently that my six-month-old son will enjoy a far healthier childhood than I ever did.

    Sorry I don’t have anything more insightful to add, but your post struck a powerful chord with me and I can’t wait to share it with a couple of friends.

  41. Sonagi on April 2, 2010 at 16:32

    While I agree that school lunches are abysmal, I remember excitedly trying mushy broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts my first year at the local public middle school after five years of eating a packed sandwich for lunch every day at the local Catholic elementary school.

  42. So, Are You In? « Momma Wisdom on April 4, 2010 at 18:29

    […] here is a very passionate blog post about the Food Revolution. It’s a little harsh and some […]

  43. Dana on April 7, 2010 at 19:43

    I was born in 1974, graduated high school in 1992 and we had garbage and shit for our school lunches also. I ate the junk along with everybody else, skipping what they had that was nutritious, but my parents made up for it at home. And back then you could still get things like pulled-pork sandwiches (in the South), cooked spinach, and whole milk. I shudder to think how much more school food has come to resemble cheap cardboard since then.

    I consider myself a bit more on the liberal side of things, mostly because it seems like libertarianism is a magnet for all the ugly little racist, sexist, heterosexist, religiously bigoted and other unsavory (to me) elements in American politics that for whatever reason don’t feel at home in the Republican party anymore. I guess some of my views are libertarian, in the broadest sense. I’m making plans to homeschool my daughter, because school indoctrination works both ways and I’d like her to get through the next 13 years and have heard of evolution at least once from her teacher (me) rather than have to hear it from some other source like I did growing up.

    That said, the reality for a lot of parents, especially low-income parents, is either they sit at home on welfare and earn the disdain of other Americans, not to mention mistreatment by the very government keeping them alive, or they go to work and no one’s there for the kids. Leave us not kid ourselves that the extended family will pitch in. That’s how I lost my son, being stupid enough to think my family would help me when my husband went wacko. My friends were no better. Let’s just say some people have been cut out of my life and there will be no way back.

    So it’s neglect the kids, or have a government babysitter for them.

    Back when the Compulsory Education Act was passed, the extended family was still in place. We don’t have that option now, in most cases.

    So yeah, anything Jaimie Oliver can do to improve the nutritional situation in schools, I’m all for that. Because the kids don’t have a choice, and a lot of their parents don’t either.

    So much is riding on this. When Weston Price was active in the 1930s or so, when he came back to the States after his trips abroad, first thing he did after all his little lab analyses and publishing his book was he opened up a kind of feeding station for poor kids in his hometown. He made sure those kids got at least that one decent meal a day, because he wanted them to have a fair start. It wasn’t any of this cardboard crap. It was cod liver oil, high-vitamin butter oil, vegetable juices, and good hearty peasant fare.

    That’s what it’s going to take, I think. If the government schools won’t do it, maybe some church might step up. Or maybe a secular nonprofit could be founded that would do it. But something’s gotta give. These kids are going to grow up dumb, crazy, and sterile at the rate we’re going. Their children will suffer too, thanks to the effects of epigenetics.

    • Dana on April 7, 2010 at 19:48

      I should add that even when you get into the choices parents make at home, they aren’t always like my ex-in-laws who have their own business and presumably enough money to make sure the family’s fed well. Also, even when the money is there, the knowledge often is not. It was easier when there were no factory foods and all you *had* was the good natural stuff, but that’s not the case anymore, and people don’t have the background knowledge or the time to cut through all the crap. If you’re poor you’re lucky to even be living in a place with a decent kitchen. It’s maddening.

      I found all this stuff, the paleo blogosphere and the LC blogosphere and various books, quite by accident. I got curious about the Atkins diet back in late ’03 and it sort of snowballed from there. But every major leap in understanding that I have made has been by accident. I did not start out going “Oh, I know, I am eating all wrong. Let me go find some paleo recipes or some low-carb recipes for proper food that will not fuck my body up.” I got waylaid by calorie theory, I got waylaid by veganism. I’m lucky I never got on the low-fat diet treadmill or I might be *really* screwed up. And I was unemployed for long enough that I had time to look. How many folks have that luxury, I wonder? And even when you have the time, what if chance doesn’t favor you?

      I fear a lot of people are going to find themselves weeded out of the gene pool in another generation or two, quite unwillingly. But maybe that’s the point. I really don’t know.

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