A Fairy Tale in the Lunchroom
Not long ago or far away, there was a great and mighty kingdom that was the envy of all other kingdoms in the world. The kingdom was home to two groups of people, the Big People and the Little People. The Big People had many jobs and responsibilities, but foremost among these was their unalterable duty to care for the wellbeing of the Little People above all else. The Little People had only one responsibility, to follow the advice of the Big People so that they, too, could grow up to be Big.
For many, many years, the Big People diligently watched over the Little People and looked out for their interests, while the Little People followed their examples and grew strong. The kingdom thrived and prospered.
Alas, as time passed, more and more Big People seemed to have forgotten their duty to the Little People. The Big Corn People began to grow so much royally-subsidized GMO corn that they turned it into millions of gallons of high fructose corn syrup. The Big Cereal People began telling Little People that their highly processed breakfast products were “smart choices” for their health and would help boost their immunity. The Big Meat People started injecting their livestock with antibiotics that compromised the immune systems of the Little People who ate the meat. The Big Beverage People ominously warned that Little People would die if they didn’t consume the electrolytes in their calorie-filled sports drinks. And the Big Milk People menacingly insisted that Little People would suffer grave calcium deficiencies unless served sugar-laden chocolate milk at every school meal.
Long gone were the days in which the Big People encouraged the Little People to eat appropriate sized portions of fresh, whole, sustainably-raised cooked-from-scratch real foods. Instead, the Big People invented “Little People Foods,” and loaded them with hormones, antibiotics, chemical preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and added sugars. They formed the Little People Foods into fun shapes, put them in convenient packages, and decorated them with colorful cartoon characters. Then the Big People ran multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns telling the Little People that they were “lovin’ it” and to “raise their hands” for more.
In an Orwellian contortion of reality, saboteurs portrayed themselves as stewards, and napalm masqueraded as nourishment.
Before long, all the added sugars and chemicals in the Little People’s food began to take a dire toll. Little People who had once been fit and healthy became overweight and sick. They could no longer focus in their classrooms because of all the added sugar in their diets, and they fell further and further behind in their studies. One in three of the Little People developed Type 2 Diabetes, a deadly disease previously suffered only by the oldest of the Big People. They even began to develop signs of cardiovascular disease before reaching middle school. And, worst of all, the Little People began to die at younger and younger ages because of diet-related illnesses, and no longer outlived the Big People.
The kingdom itself fared no better. Increasingly populated by overweight and sick Little People, its royal treasury was rapidly depleted to cover calamitous healthcare expenses. Without enough healthy Little People to grow into healthy Big People, the kingdom could no longer raise an army strong enough to defend itself against invaders. And with a food supply that was so reliant on industrial agriculture and processing, the kingdom became more and more dependent on foreign oil, its once beautiful valleys became landfills for discarded food packaging, and its skies became toxic with emissions from long distribution chains and factory-farmed animals.
Although the warning signs portended the kingdom’s ultimate destruction, the Most Powerful Big People used their wealth to persuade the legislature to pass laws allowing them to exploit the kingdom’s progeny in unbridled pursuit of hallowed profits. The Less Powerful Big People exhibited an air of complacency, either too ashamed to admit to their own complicity or too ignorant to recognize it.
And the Little People, helpless and innocent victims of the rapacious greed of so many Big People, lived their shortened and sickened lives unhappily ever after.
AllergyKids is grateful to Guest Bloggers, Ann Cooper and Kate Adamick, for this article.
Ann Cooper serves as Interim Nutrition Director of the Boulder Valley School District; is founder of the Food Family Farming Foundation’s Lunch Box Project; and is author of Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children.
Kate Adamick is a New York-based food-systems consultant specializing in school-food reform and the director of The Orfalea Fund’s Cool Food Initiative in Santa Barbara, Calif.