Thursday, 4 December 2014

Food for thought

I'm living in the UK but I don't have a British background. I'm Mediterranean, I was born in Spain. Although I'm not a proud patriot, I consider myself very fortunate of having grown up in a country where the food is so varied and there are so many different local recipes. Besides, I was raised in a house where eating healthy has always been a priority, even though when I was younger I was incredibly fussy and picky.

My parents were very worried because I used to eat very little and for some time, when I was about 5 or 6 years old, I would even vomit everything I had just eaten. Not because of bulimia but because I didn't like food and my body would automatically reject it. My excuse was always the same: "I don't like it". My parents answer was always the same in turn: "You haven't tried it enough". After all these years I have to admit they were right. Now I never say I don't like something until I've tried it first, and sometimes it's only a question of getting used to a new flavour.

In Spanish schools the lunch break is longer than in the UK. For this reason, it is possible to go home and have lunch there. In my school years, I had lunch at home some years and in school some others. If I have to choose, I'd pick my mom's food, but I can't say the food we were provided in school was not healthy or varied or edible.

Food must be at least edible and nutritious, but if we don't combine it properly, instead of a healthy diet, it will become a sort of slow suicide.

I've been working in a primary school for a month now and can't help being amazed everyday both with the contents of the children's lunchboxes and with the food provided by the school.

I've seen lunchboxes with muffins, chocolates and sweets. ONLY muffins, chocolates and sweets. It's far from unusual to find lunchboxes with jam sandwiches, Nutella sandwiches, sweets, chocolate bars and the drinks are usually fizzy ones or juice with a lot of sugar.

But the school food is not much better: meat is always pork meat (which is nice, but full of fat), legumes are always beans with tomato sauce (which I adore, but they're just full of sugar), pasta is always boiled (just boiled... inedible), veggies are always sweetcorn (full of sugar and fat), or boiled carrots (which they're ok, but if you don't add some salt, oil, pepper or any other added flavour, I know very few people who would like eating them), fish is always fish fingers (which are battered and thus full of fat), and pizza is very common. PIZZA! For goodness sake!

And then there's the pudding. There are not enough words in the world to help me describe what I feel when I see that every day. There's always fruit, but children can choose between fruit and "the other sweet option". So what do you think children usually choose? Exactly: biscuits, jelly, brownie, ice-cream... SUGAR & FAT.

I thought this school was an exception, so I had a look to other school menus in the Internet. I was surprised to find the same pattern in all of them.

I'm honestly really worried because these children must have way too many vitamin deficiencies to say the least. I suggest the responsibles for the lunch food in all schools around the UK to have a look at this basic food pyramid and try to apply it to the menus as soon as possible.

There are many things I absolutely love about the UK, but the way children are fed is definitely not one of them.

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