I don’t remember my own childhood food battles, most likely because I wasn’t a picky eater. I enjoyed sampling and was pretty willing to try just about any food at least once. The challenge for me as a child was not the lack of desire to eat healthy foods, but the lack of access to nutritious meals. The first problem was that I was a latch-key kid. My mother was a single mom with six kids, and she worked long hours, which left me without much supervision after school. I ate what was readily available and that didn’t require cooking – usually things like pop-parts, cereal, processed white breads and sugary jellies or cookies. The second, and more frustrating, problem was that my mother didn’t like vegetables, so she rarely cooked them. I don’t know how on earth it was that I developed such an overpowering love for broccoli, but I craved it desperately – all the more so because my mother didn’t make it much. I’d plead with her to “make me some of the green stuff”, and occasionally she’d indulge me. Most nights, however, the dinner table with loaded with the delicious delicacies of my mom’s southern roots: fried chicken, spare ribs, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, beef stew, potato salad, and tuna casserole. Comfort food for sure, but sadly laden with fats, salt, oils and thick creams.
The abundance of unhealthy foods that I was surrounded with eventually led to a years-long battle with weight issues and yo-yo dieting, so the fear that I would pass on these poor eating habits to my own kids was high. Of course, as a parent, I equipped myself with much more knowledge than I’d previously had about good nutrition…but as any busy, overwhelmed parent will tell you, sometimes convenience trumps everything else. Over the years, I have defaulted more times than I would have liked to processed, packaged and preserved foods with my kids. Luckily, my oldest daughter really took a liking to some of the healthier choices I offered her as a toddler and she remains a pretty good eater, making many nutritious choices all on her own. My 6-year old, however, still loves starch and sugar more than anything else and I must say that it worries me a lot. I recently purchased a book, Appetite for Life, by Stacey Antine, MS, RD, which I hope will help me begin to change her eating habits and nudge her towards a healthier relationship with food.
I am lucky that I have the ability to purchase a book and can afford to buy healthier foods for my family. Unfortunately, there are many parents who aren’t that fortunate. Access to education on good nutrition and healthy foods is, for some, a far away luxury. According to research conducted by Save the Children, more than 19,000 children around the world die each day, due to preventable diseases caused by malnutrition. And although malnutrition can be cited as a major contributor to stunted growth, poor cognitive and educational development, it continues to be grossly underfunded by local and International governments. Save the Children is on a mission to change that fact.
This month, President Obama and other world leaders will come together for the G8 Summit, which focuses on global nutrition. Save the Children’s Food for Thought initiative wants to put the pressure on President Obama to make sure that financial support is put in place to prevent millions of children from dying, being undernourished and faltering intellectually. Education is key and programs need to be ushered in that not only offer affordable access to nutritional foods and supplements, but that educates children and adults on the long-term importance of good nutrition.
To read Save the Children’s insightful report and learn more about the world hunger and malnutrition crisis, visit their website.
I am a member of The Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of mom bloggers dedicated to writing about causes related to maternal health, children, hunger, and women and girls. This post was written in support of Mom Bloggers for Social Good and Food for Thought’s initiative to put the spotlight on good nutrition for kids around the world at the upcoming G8 Summits.
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