I rate food at about the top of my list as far as important political and moral issues go. It always depresses me to learn how a well-meaning person who cares about the world, volunteers, works for positive change, and tries to raise consciousness of the ignorant around him never gives a thought to the food he consumes or what the modern industrial production of that food costs this planet and its creatures.
Eating is a moral act in America. In other places, it's about survival, but that's an issue altogether outside the scope of this blog. Most Americans, from those dependent on food stamps to the President of the United States, have clear and sensible ? moral ? choices about what they decide to consume.
Just take a look around Newport High School on the Central Oregon Coast where I teach and you will see that a vast majority of food decisions made by students are routinely terrible.
Start with breakfast. Foamy Starbucks drinks and huge bottles of soda pop. A Rockstar to my left, a Redbull to my right. Monsters everywhere. A muffin from a gas station. Satan's handiwork, Lunchables rear their ugly yellow heads.
Lunch is far worse. The clock strikes noon and student race to their cars and invade the 15 or so fast food outlets within a mile of campus. They return 15 minutes later with oceans of melted cheese and greasy animal flesh produced in a holocaust of industrialized food production characterized by genetic modification, steroids, chemicals, antibiotics, barbaric confinement, torture, animal experimentation, pollution, and environmental degradation.
But it sure tastes good, and it sure is convenient. I know some teachers don't allow students to bring food into their classrooms, but I consider that one of the worst and shortsighted pedagogical decisions imaginable. I want them to eat their terrible fast food in front of me, so I can comment on it right there. It's the curriculum that never stops teaching.
Yes, we have a cafeteria at school, but around 90 percent of the students with driver's licenses leave campus for lunch. Many of those 90 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch. The food in the cafeteria isn't great, but at least it meets federal nutrition standards, and it does include salad.
I can't just criticize the kids. Before arriving at Newport High School, I had never taught at a school with an open campus. Thus it came as a total shock to me to witness some of the adults (usually seriously overweight) employed here eating worse than the kids, meaning they regularly left campus at lunch, returned with terrible fast food, and pretty much ate this garbage in plain view of their students. Is there a more irresponsible personal health image for a teacher to model daily for their students? I can't think of one outside of smoking a cigarette and swigging from a bottle of vodka while making a presentation. It totally contradicts everything I hear coming across the hall from health class and, I would also pray, PE.
Virtually no one can eat right all the time. I know I can't. Good choices exist though. Some of them cost more money and take more thought and preparation. If more Americans made them on a daily basis, it would quickly foment a cultural revolution and, with it, significant moral change.