Monday, September 28, 2009

High School Redefines Cheeseburgers as “Health Food”

Students Protest Mission Bay’s Same-Old “New Direction” Food Service


Copyright © 2009 by Leo E. Laurence • All rights reserved

PHOTO: Liban Dini. Taken by Leo E. Laurence

With great fanfare, the San Diego Unified School District revealed the so-called “healthy” meals being offered at its schools during an event at Mission Bay High School (MBHS), produced largely for the media.

“The ‘SanDi Coast Café’ is a new direction in food service for high school students (in the district),” a press release from the district’s Food Services Department says.

The official release referred to little kiosks that offered fatty pizzas, and lots of beef in hamburg-ers and burritos. Six were set up the for media to see at MBHS.

“These six carts all meet USDA guidelines for healthy food for high school students,” said Kimberly Wright, RD, MPH, the district’s Menu Systems Development Dietitian during an in-terview.

Behind her was a cart promoting “American Cheeseburgers.”

“Do those cheeseburgers meet USDA guidelines?” I questioned her.

“This is good food for students in grades 7-12, with 825 calories per day,” she answered.

But that didn’t answer the question of whether or not these cheeseburgers meet USDA guide-lines for high school students.

“Well, on the average of all six food carts, this food meets the USDA guidelines,” she said, changing the basic substance of her original statement. It was only an “average.”

Because some salads were being offered on another cart, the average of all six food carts met the USDA guidelines, she explained. She admitted that a cheeseburger was not healthy.

Student Athlete’s Response

Later I noticed a student biting into one of those “healthy” cheeseburgers. Patrick Bell, 17, a MBHS senior, is active in both football and baseball. He also seemed a little overweight.

After learning that our stomach cannot fully digest animal fat (beef), and that the fat in his hamburger will eventually add more unwanted pounds, he suddenly stopped eating, with another senior, Liban Dini, 17, standing nearby watching.

“So, what should I do with this hamburger? Throw it away?” he asked.

“That would be smart,” I answered.

To my great surprise, Bell threw the remaining half of his cheeseburger into a nearby trash can. As an athlete, it was the right thing to do, and bold.

But it got a girl standing nearby really mad.

“Why did you throw it away, rather than giving it to me?” she complained. Rather than con-gratulate him on having just made a touch decision, she was bitching.

Minutes later, athlete Bell was seen diving into a recommended “teriyaki chicken with vege-tables” dish from another food cart.

When a healthy diet was explained to the MBHS athlete, including the damaging effects of eat-ing red meat, Bell made the right, albeit difficult, choice.

Among the available choices are Southwestern Chicken Wrap, Chicken Caesar Salad and Penne Pasta Alfredo.

For others, however, the fatty pizza and hamburgers remained popular in the district’s “new direction in food service.”