When I Questioned the Feds and Why You Are Needed Now

This week, CongressDaily published some of my conversation with Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak. I hope someone in power will read it and understand that we can’t just talk about the health of our children and invent new programs to “help” them.  It is a question of where we are putting our money.  All the jumping jacks and walks to school must be supported by healthy food!!!  The love of a fresh spinach salad with a whole grain roll will last long after they leave school.  Yes, walk to school, but many children are greeted by donuts and Fruit Loops.

Good quality food costs money and it is worth it to spend it on our children!  Please, please make your voice heard right now!  The easiest way is to go here to send an email where it matters most or to telephone the Capitol Hill switchboard at 1-800-815-3740 and ask to speak to your U.S. House Representative.  Tell him or her that you want an additional dollar per lunch allotted in the reauthorization  of the Child Nutrition Act,   that, in addition to the extra dollar, you want the following:

  • Increased quality of meals served in the school meal program; including less use of highly processed foods which are high in fat and sodium, increased fresh and high quality fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and reduced overall sodium content.
  • Strengthened nutrition standards for school meal programs and competitive foods.
  • At least $50 million mandatory funding for Farm to School programs. (Healthy Schools Campaign)

My School Lunch Revolution

Click here to go to my recent post on Chicago Moms Blog about my three-year long battle with our school lunch program and what we can do about it now (write your representatives!).  Also, see this recent article here (not written by me) and one in the New York Times (also not by me).

Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak Not Serious Enough about Child Nutrition Reform

I just got off the phone on a conference call with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak and my “sisters” at the Silicon Valley Moms Group where I blog for Chicago Moms Blog.  He claimed to be seriously concerned about childhood obesity, confiding that he was overweight as a child.  However,  when he was asked whether high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”) will be eliminated as an acceptable ingredient in child school lunches under the soon to be revised Child Nutrition Act, he said, “I honestly don’t know if we would be as prescriptive as eliminating this . . .” and suggested that there would be a “push back” from Congress or a “push back politically.”    I had the opportunity to ask him why government surplus food with high fructose corn syrup and dairy with artificial hormones and antibiotics are being “dumped” on our schools.  I also asked him why it is more expensive to buy an organic apple than a cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant.  His response showed me that he is not really serious about reducing the obesity rates and that it is more important to support and subsidize powerful corporate groups like the Corn Refiners Association, the American Corn Grower’s Association, the National Corn Grower’s Association and the like.     He said that we will always be growing corn in our country and “we won’t stop providing resources to those who grow corn”.  He said nothing about the dairy industry (perhaps my question was too long anyway).  I wish I had a chance to follow up on his praise of corn and corn farmers.  I would have suggested that we turn to a much better, much more nutritious and hardier crop — hemp.  Yes, hemp oil contains wonderful omega 3s to feed our brain, while corn is a grain to bulk up in our tummies and feed to cattle which should be fed grass anyway.  Growing hemp (which is illegal in our country)  can also  help with our deforestation of the globe as it is a hardy fast growing  plant (no need for pesticides!) to use for making paper products and many many other useful things.  Indeed, the Declaration of Independence is written on hemp. Vilsak had some promising things to say about the USDA’s plans to help to improve school lunches, but it all comes down to business as usual in politics.  Those who have the money (corn lobbies) will always win over those who don’t (children receiving free lunches).  Who will pay the cost?  All of us.  If any of these politicians will just look to the bigger picture here.  What cost should we bear?  The cost of losing the money from the corn growers or the cost of losing human lives to obesity and diabetes?  There is no middle ground here.  We need a Secretary of Agriculture who is committed to the people of the United States of America not to the corporations of America.  Mr. Secretary, I implore you, stop the U.S. tradition of catering to our corn industry.  Give our children healthier food and give our farmers a better crop to grow!

Of Course We Didn’t Get the Olympics

Picture after picture of Chicago fans with their mouths dropping open seemed so ridiculous to me. Our city is in crisis! The following is actually a comment I posted to my fellow Chicago Moms Blogger, Miss Lori’s article, Dead Children Walking. I was so worked up over it. Then I decided I liked what I said so much that I wanted to post it here too. You should read what she says about the terrible tragedies that have befallen our inner-city youth. My response was:

I remember volunteering at a charter school in Pilson and one of my duties was to stand outside to usher the teenagers in so that there was no loitering outside the school. “Loitering makes them targets for drivebys,” I was told. Believe me, my heart beat a little faster every time a car drove by during that half hour. I can’t imagine what these children go through every day walking around the neighborhood. The very fact that people (Daley especially) were “shocked” that we didn’t get the Olympics proves that most people, while they are quick to say, “Oh isn’t that a shame about all those young people dying?” Really don’t understand the severity of the problem. Of course we didn’t get the Olympics! While to the naked eye from all the cool tourist spots like Millenium Park, the Museum Campus, and Oak Street Beach, we look like the perfect city on the lake, we simply can’t hide the ugly truth about our children any longer. Generations have been and are growing up without parental involvement. We can’t put all the blame on the teachers, as those in the past like Valis and Duncan liked to do. We can’t rally the parents, because they are too busy struggling with addiction, poverty, lack of health care and gangs to pay attention to whether their young one has clean underwear or has a bedtime story to read. However, we can’t throw up our hands and give up! Something drastic and radical has to be done. If it means year round schooling with longer school days just so we can give the kids a few hours of supervised play on a playground, a place to do laundry and a decent dinner before sending them home to bed, then it has got to be done. Maybe we need boarding schools? If the parents won’t parent, then we’ll have to do it. Of course all of this would be very expensive, but if we don’t pay for it now, believe me, we’ll all pay for it later.

Toy Review: Dream Box Math Game Online

stellacarnivalAs a Chicago Moms Blog contributor, I get some pretty cool perks. One of them was a chance for my kids to try out Dream Box, an new online math video game for preschoolers through second grade. Since both my children fall into this range, everyone got to enjoy it (and we all know how much my children like to play video games). My first grader likes the games on Dream Box because there are mermaids and pixies. She says the games make math fun. My preschooler likes Dream Box because once you earn tokens for completing math games, you get to play carnival games like skeet ball and a game where you have to fit a certain number of farm animals in a pen.

I like the games because the graphics are beautiful with soothing colors (no bright lights and loud obnoxious noises) and the rewards are unique such as a chance to clean up a polluted ocean or giving a plant enough water to make a flower grow tall. Furthermore, there is even a special trial set up for parents so that they can learn how to do the games and see what the children will be doing before they have to do it themselves. One caveat, I found some of the math games to be way too difficult for my preschooler. For example, one of the games asks the child to put double digit numbers in order. I have to sit down and help him since he has just learned to recognize single digits. If you are reading this, then YOU are lucky because now that you know about Dream Box, you can go to the website and try it for two weeks, free!  Oh, and then come back here and let me know what you think!

Stay Up to Date on This Week’s Torah Portion

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve been going to Torah study every Saturday morning at my synagogue. I just got turned on to this website which will give you a brief cartoon (yes, it’s animated) summary of the week’s parsha. I love it! Check it out!

School Lets Little Girl Try to Walk Home

school24iconThis recent story in the Chicago Tribune had me angry and scared. Little Arejohnnae Powers was only six when her elementary school in Waukegan allowed her to wander off, failing to make sure she went home with her teenage sister, who had made special arrangements with the school to pick her up. This poor little girl was wandering the streets looking for her home for two hours before relatives found her. Understandably, she is traumatized. I know, I’ve gotten under some people’s skin for complaining about parents who leave their children home alone (see my post at Chicago Moms Blog). In this case, the child was neglected by her school. A school that deals with dismissing children every day and should have done better.

How often does it happen and how often can it happen that our little ones can fall through the cracks and be forgotten by school officials? I don’t know much about our elementary school’s pick up policy. For Kindergarten (a separate school in our district), the parents and caregivers lined up outside the door and waited while each child was dismissed one by one, paying careful attention to the notes on a clipboard listing authorized pick-up names. My six-year-old, now in first grade, takes the bus home. I have seen the chaos that comes just before dismissal. The “busers” as they are called, gather their coats and backpacks and head out for the back door where the buses wait. The children who are picked up are dismissed out the classroom door and are supposed to head for the front door, where they mill about, play on the playground, jump into waiting automobiles or are greeted by someone to walk them home. I think there are a few teachers watching this scene, but I don’t know how diligent they are.

I took Arejohnnae’s case as a chance to talk about school dismissal with Eva. I told her about the news article and asked her what she should do if she was told to walk home without me, her father, or her grandmother. She now knows that the best thing to do would be to walk right back into that school, go right to the office and tell them there is no one to pick her up and she will not go anywhere alone. I hope this never happens, but one never knows. Also, I hope Arejohnnae Powers feels safe again soon.