I had to wait in a children’s hospital cafeteria yesterday for about an hour. I hadn’t had lunch, so I searched for something suitable to eat. There was the obligatory salad bar with iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, and a few tomatoes. Didn’t look appealing. A bowl full of apples was next to the salad bar. I had an apple in the car on my way to the hospital.
My other options were creamy sauced pastas, heavily cheesed pizza slices sitting under a hot lamp, some deep fried chicken fingers, packages of chips, cookies and candy bars. There was a refrigerated section with sodas, bottled water and juices, a few yogurts (the kind with lots of sugar and food dyes), and fruit cups that were full of about 1/3 fruit, topped with twice as much whipped cream as fruit, and then topped with marshmallows.
I went up to the cash register. Maybe they had packs of nutsor sunflower seeds. Nope. There were some candy bulk bins, with a very spicy crunchy trail mix – peanuts, almonds, pretzels, sesame sticks. After looking around, it really seemed like my best option. I scooped some trail mix out of the bins and grabbed an orange juice.
I was thinking about how ridiculous it is that these were the only options that the doctors and nurses in this children’s hospital had to choose from for nourishment during their long shifts. The fruit &vegetable options were sad, whole grains completely non-existent, but highly refined carbohydrates, high fatty, and high sugary foods were in abundance. It probably would have been a fleeting thought if I hadn’t encountered a very large sign just passed the cashier. This is what I saw.
I turned back to the cashier. “Excuse me. Where is this food?” I asked pointing to the sign.
This may have been a sign for vegetarians, but the food on the sign would have given me, a carnivore, better choices than was offered.
I was reminded of when I asked my fourth grader what he was learning in health. He told me they were learning about eating right. I asked him if what they were learning in health class matched up to the food being served in the cafeteria. “No way,” was his response.
Healthy eating is preached all the time, but healthy eating is hard to do unless the food is actually available. Why isn’t the food available in settings like a hospital cafeteria or a school cafeteria? Maybe because people don’t demand it.
I have yet to actually speak up about the food in my boys’ school cafeteria. To speak up about it is to take the lead. Taking the lead means taking the time to actually do something. I’d have to go to board meetings, do research, help find solutions instead of just complaining. I can do all of those things. I’m good at all of those things. But when I think of adding those things into my schedule, I back off.
Incidents like yesterdays bring me one step closer to practicing what I preach, though. But I’m not quite there yet. I’ll just keep packing my boys lunch and leave the speaking up for “someday.” I hope I figure out how to make “someday” “someday soon.”