The past few years, I’ve been inspired by the food revolution taking place in U.S. schools. Jamie Oliver’s TV show “Food Revolution” first highlighted the unhealthy state of American school lunches and offered models for reform. Now, The Clinton Foundation is negotiating healthier school lunches at equal pricing. First Lady Michelle Obama’s program Let’s Move is driving healthier food and more physical activity in schools. On a local level, non-profits like Garden School Foundation (GSF) provide under-served youth with “garden-based learning in outdoor living classrooms.”
According to the CDC’s website, “one in three children in America are overweight or obese.” Inside minority communities, that figure rises to 40%. In step with these alarming numbers, doctors are seeing an uptick of diseases not usually seen in children: heart disease, Type II Diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure. Obesity also increases a child’s risk of asthma, not to mention the trauma of social discrimination.
How did we get here? Let’s Move’s website gives a commonsense history. Three decades ago, a typical day for kids consisted of three home-cooked whole food meals, physical activity, with few to no snacks. Today’s kids walk almost nowhere, spend more time indoors on electronics than playing outdoors, and consume a stampede of sugar-laden processed snacks.
All us adults will have to work together to guide America’s children back to healthier habits. I began with an honest look at my own diet, and then it was time for Samy’s Camera Photo Camp to get an update, too. On Food Photography day, when we first started the program, I’d bring in fortune cookies, candy, alphabet pasta, etc. This is the stuff kids love, right? I’d be the fun teacher, plus it was cheap and easily transported from the local dollar store.
No longer. Now I bring exclusively fruits and vegetables. We spend a moment discussing the various bright colors and texture, even how different colors imply different nutrients and vitamins. Good photographs are about visual storytelling. We don’t need the shiny packaging of the candy. What could be more visually appealing than fresh fruits and vegetables? I ask the kids what their favorite veggies at home are, and have them brainstorm other good candidates besides the broccoli, carrots, bananas, etc. provided. The word of the day in Food Photography is composition, so we talk about arranging the food according to color, texture, and shape.
My job is done 🙂